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Oh My Stars by Lorna Landvik
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Oh My Stars

by Lorna Landvik

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This is the story of Violet Mathers, a woman who started out in life unloved and unwanted. She was made fun of by her peers and by her family, and when she is left with only one arm following a horrific accident in a sewing factory, she knows that her only choice is to end her life. At the age of 18, she leaves her father, gets on a bus bound for San Francisco, and patiently waits for the bus to end its journey. Her plan is to be the second person to end their life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

But fate has something else in store for Violet. The bus never makes it to the West Coast. An accident that leaves the bus stranded in North Dakota becomes the turning point in her life. A family kindly takes her in. One of the family members, a handsome young man named Kjel (pronounced "Shell"), patiently and lovingly helps change Violet from a very depressed and insecure teenager to a confident and happy woman. To say it simply, Kjel gives Violet a reason to live.

Soon after, Kjel and his good friend Austin, a black man for whom Violet feels repulsion in the beginning, decide they want to travel around the country. Their story takes place in the late 1930s, and she has been taught that white and black people do not mix. Kjel, however, never sees a color difference, and the two men are best friends. Kjel convinces Austin and Violet that they are going with him on this trip. They leave North Dakota and take off for parts unknown, with no plans except to travel.

What happens next is the adventure of a lifetime. With the help of Austin's brother Dallas, and Violet as their manager, they form a musical band called the Pearltones, in tribute to their hometown of Pearl, North Dakota. Their lives take on the form of a dream. Kjel becomes an Elvis-like heartthrob, and they help break color barriers with their music. Fans crowd into clubs and bars to hear them perform, with women young and old swooning at their feet. They encounter racism along the way, as well as lasting friendships, loyalty, and not least of all, love.

Although the story is difficult to follow at times due to the jumping back and forth between time sequences, OH MY STARS is a wonderful novel. While the story is rooted in history, in particular the segregation of whites and blacks, it also takes on a fantastical dreamy type of fable. The story of Violet's early life is a downer, but this is the type of book that, when the last page is turned, makes you feel good all over, and you will remember the characters for a very long time afterward.

The story is told through Violet's eyes as an elderly woman reminiscing about a life that could have ended too soon. The book concludes with Violet's narration, remarking, "Who'd have ever thought a shunned, husky-voiced, one armed, big-chinned girl with a hive of bees in her head could live a life so full of miracles?" It's nice to know that some books do have happy endings.
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
This may be my favorite Landvik work. Reminds me of "Tall Pines Polka." Charming and thoughtful. Full of the drama of life. However, I kept forgetting that it's set mostly in the Depression (Becuase there aren't a lot of touchstones to remind the reader), and that was a bit confusing. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 19, 2016 |
I have been catching up on all my Lorna Landvik titles this summer. This was a a great surprise and breath of fresh air for me. All of those books with northwoods Minnesota settings get to be a bit much. This book, written as a backward look by an old woman having a conversation about her life, was a wonderful story. It was set mostly during the Depression and WWII years in middle America. It is a story of horrible loss, of family relationships, lifetime friendships, and the American Dream realized.
Some readers may feel that the situations and characters are not always believable, but almost all good entertainment requires some suspension of disbelief. This is a story that will grip you and keep you reading. ( )
  suline | Aug 24, 2015 |
a good story. i just got all the men mixed up. ( )
  mahallett | Dec 9, 2013 |
Enjoyable book, enjoyed the editorials that began each chapter. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345468368, Paperback)

I am convinced that at birth the cake is already baked. Nurture is the nuts or frosting, but if you’re a spice cake, you’re a spice cake, and nothing is going to change you into an angel food.

Tall, slender Violet Mathers is growing up in the Great Depression, which could just as well define her state of mind. Abandoned by her mother as a child, mistreated by her father, and teased by her schoolmates (“Hey, Olive Oyl, where’s Popeye?”), the lonely girl finds solace in artistic pursuits. Only when she’s hired by the town’s sole feminist to work the night shift in the local thread factory does Violet come into her name, and bloom. Accepted by her co-workers, the teenager enters the happiest phase of her life, until a terrible accident causes her to retreat once again into her lonely shell.

Realizing that she has only one clear choice, Violet boards a bus heading west to California. But when the bus crashes in North Dakota, it seems that Fate is having another cruel laugh at Violet’s expense. This time though, Violet laughs back. She and her fellow passengers are rescued by two men: Austin Sykes, whom Violet is certain is the blackest man to ever set foot on the North Dakota prairie, and Kjel Hedstrom, who inspires feelings Violet never before has felt. Kjel and Austin are musicians whose sound is like no other, and with pluck, verve, and wit, Violet becomes part of their quest to make a new kind of music together.

Oh My Stars is Lorna Landvik’s most ambitious novel yet, with a cast of characters whose travails and triumphs you’ll long remember. It is a tale of love and hope, bigotry and betrayal, loss and discovery–as Violet, who’s always considered herself a minor character in her own life story, emerges as a heroine you’ll laugh with, cry with, and, most important, cheer for all the way.


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:44 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Tall, slender Violet Mathers is growing up in the Great Depression, which could just as well define her state of mind. Abandoned by her mother as a child, mistreated by her father, and teased by her schoolmates ('Hey, Olive Oyl, where's Popeye?'), the lonely girl finds solace in artistic pursuits. Only when she's hired by the town's sole feminist to work the night shift in the local thread factory does Violet come into her name, and bloom. Accepted by her co-workers, the teenager enters the happiest phase of her life, until a terrible accident causes her to retreat once again into her lonely shell. Realizing that she has only one clear choice, Violet boards a bus heading west to California. But when the bus crashes in North Dakota, it seems that Fate is having another cruel laugh at Violet's expense. This time, though, Violet laughs back. She and her fellow passengers are rescued by two men: Austin Sykes, whom Violet is certain is the blackest man to ever set foot on the North Dakota prairie, and Kjel Hedstrom, who inspires feelings Violet never before has felt. Kjel and Austin are musicians whose sound is like no other, and with pluck, verve, and wit, Violet becomes part of their quest to make a new kind of music together."--from publisher's description… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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