Lorna Landvik's first novel, Patty Jane's House of Curl, captured
enough reader's hearts to become something of a sleeper hit. Your
Oasis on Flame Lake displays every likelihood of doing the same thing.
A light but touching read, Landvik's second novel is surprisingly engaging.
It's not that you can't put it down so much as that you forget
The story is set on one of Minnesota's thousands of small lakes, in a
quiet little community where two women have been best friends since high
school. BiDi (Beverly Diane) and Devera were voted "least changed" at
their twentieth high school reunion. For BiDi, the title is a triumph,
homage to her success in maintaining her perfect body. For Devera,
though, the "award" becomes a thorn in her side. Nothing's really
wrong with her life -- she's got two great daughters and a
marriage that everyone else holds up as a paragon. Still, she thinks,
there must be something more, some aspect of living that she ought to be
While Dev enrolls in college classes and considers an affair with her
gray-headed and gray-toothed professor, BiDi continues to concentrate
on her twin passions of bodily maintenance and housekeeping. Divorced
from her high school sweetheart, BiDi's remarried to Sergio, a small,
dramatic man who runs a successful bakery and loves both BiDi and her
daughter passionately. Well and good, but BiDi keeps her body in top
form to be admired from afar, so Sergio gets far less physical intimacy
than he craves. And BiDi's daughter, Franny, who loves Sergio like a
father more than she seems to love BiDi as her mother, is a quiet,
stocky teenaged star of the local hockey team. BiDi despairs of her only child
ever looking like BiDi thinks she should. Adding to her woes is Sergio's
desire to procreate. He wants a son to carry on his name.
BiDi and Devera grapple with their early midlife crises as Dev's affable
car-salesman husband, Dick, works to create a nightclub in their basement.
He dreams of a little BYOB joint where he can perform his lyrically
skewed versions of classic lounge songs. "Your Oasis on Flame Lake"
becomes a reality, and it's a hit with all their friends. Just when
things start feeling back to normal and happy for the two families, an
act of violence shatters the placid surface of their lives. Its
repercussions will force everyone involved to take careful stock of all
they hold dear.
Landvik's ability to create warm, likable characters makes her multiple
viewpoint storytelling particularly effective. Devera and Dick's younger
daughter Darcy is especially memorable, nearly (but not quite) stealing
the whole show. Your Oasis on Flame Lake is a moving, ultimately
happy tale of family and forgiveness.