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The Tall Pine Polka (Ballantine Reader's…
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The Tall Pine Polka (Ballantine Reader's Circle)

by Lorna Landvik

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Lorna Landvik won legions of devoted readers with her debut novel, Patty Jane's House of Curl, and kept them with Your Oasis on Flame Lake. She's likely to delight her fans again with The Tall Pine Polka, which has more than a few things in common with her earlier novels: Landvik returns to her beloved small-town Minnesota setting, the action centers on a friendly gathering place (where the title "dance" routinely takes place), and the story is about the bittersweet bonds between women.

In northern Minnesota, the small town of Tall Pine nestles among woods and lakes. It's a little tourist town that caters in the summer months to travelers from across the country looking for the chance to do a little fishing and get away from it all. At Lee O'Leary's Cup O'Delight Cafe, named for the extravagantly delicious coffee brewed by its proprietor, the locals meet to eat, drink, gossip and simply enjoy one another's company. Lee, a plus-size redheaded East Coast heiress, transplanted herself in Tall Pine to escape her abusive ex-husband. Her best friend, Fenny Ness, is a twenty-two year old Tall Pine native who runs her late parents' bait-and-craft shops. Still deeply mourning her adventurous parents' deaths after several years, Fenny is often accused by friends of being more of a little old lady than even a little old lady could be. Despite her occasional primness, Fenny is warmly cared for by the others in the little group that meets after hours at the Cup O'Delight for an evening of friendly fellowship now and again.

When the obnoxious writer of a new Hollywood screenplay, "Ike and Inga," comes to Tall Pine scouting locations, he knows he's found his "Inga" when he spies Fenny in the window of her shop. Coaxed and cajoled by Lee and the rest of her friends, homebody Fenny finally agrees to fly to California to do a screen test. She meets with the screenwriter's B-movie producing uncle and gets the part in an unusual way that gives the phrase "casting couch" a wickedly new scatalogical meaning. She returns to Tall Pine, and filming soon begins under the dictatorial eye of a bitter, egomaniacal director, with many of Fenny's Tall Pine friends acting as extras.

Through all this, Fenny is finally opening up emotionally again to a tall, dark stranger in Tall Pine, the handsome and warm half-Polynesian, half-Native American, Big Bill. The only problem is, Lee saw him first, and Lee's in love with him. Fate contrives to prevent the already reluctant Fenny from confessing her relationship with Bill to Lee, and when the news is finally sprung on Lee the friendship between the two appears to be irrevocably over. Bill, Lee and Fenny each go their separate ways to think things over, and a bleak comedy of errors goes extremely bad as misunderstandings and mean-hearted meddling by others threaten to ruin a beautiful friendship.
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
I read this long ago, but somehow didn't put it on my shelf. I remember only a little about it, other than that there are quirky characters, and a small town with a tight-knit community. A movie crew comes into town and disrupts the dynamics; relationships are strained but all works out in the end. ( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 28, 2016 |
This is the 3rd book by Lorna I've read. I love her! (The neat thing is she writes about Minnesota. There is a scent at the State Fair, in Hinkley and Duluth, etc). Not as good as Patty Jane's House of Curl, but still great! It is funny and the characters are true to life along with the story; events seem to follow how life is.. haphazard and not always good. The characters prevail with love. Characters: Fenny, Big Bill, Lee, Slim, Miss Penk and Frau Katte. ( )
  camplakejewel | Sep 28, 2013 |
1 of 21 books for $10. 2/10/12
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
This is another great book!

I had read almost 400 pages. I had enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot. I thought I knew what to expect as the book was coming to a close and then.....I actually shouted "NO!!" I was so surprised by one sudden turn of events I couldn't be quiet!

That's what Landvik did for me in this story!

Fenny Ness is a stay at home, afraid of her shadow, twenty-something hidden away in the tiny Northern Minnesota town of Tall Pines. Fenny is surrounded by her good friends; Lee, the owner of the Cup'O Delight coffee shop, Slim, the barking bus boy/man overcoming the lingering remnants of Post Tramatic Stress Disorder, Frau Katte and Miss Penk the aging lesbian couple, Pete the shoe repairman who secretly runs a thriving mail-order business for handmade shoes, and the mayor. Each of these people works to fill the holes created by the sudden deaths of Fenny's parents. She is happy in this old lady life where everything is predictable and safe.

Into this cliched small town life a movie director is dropped, and Fenny is 'discovered.' Fenny becomes Inga, the fresh mail-order bride, ordered by Ike, a Minnesota lumberman. So, not only is Tall Pines over run with the film makers, but Fenny is also the reluctant star. Her no-nonsense charm washes over the actors, directors and the audience alike transforming a mundane little film into something as magical as the actual Tall Pines.

Midway though the story - Bill, a 1/2 Chippewa and 1/2 Hawaiian piano playing jack of all trades also drops into the scene and the real life in Tall Pines takes turn after turn for both Lee and Fenny.

In that real life there is a shooting ( the gun kind, not the film kind), a death, a birth, a marriage, and a couple of fights.

It's one of those books that could have stopped long before it did. I would have been satisfied, but longed for more. Instead, it rode out the turmoil and resolved itself in a way that only Landvik could.

This is a really good one!!! :) ( )
  kebets | Dec 31, 2012 |
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There are four words Fenny Ness wished she had never spoken. These four words were not ones that cause obvious heartbreak like "We must operate immediately" or "I want a divorce," but because they were spoken, they nearly (literally) blew Fenny's chances for a normal life. Four innocent words addressed to a beefy teenager standing behind a counter patterned with smudges: "One Burrito Suprema, please."
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0449003701, Paperback)

Balanced on the remote edge of the boundary waters in northern Minnesota, the Cup o' Delight Café is home to a motley crew of locals. Drawn to the addictive coffee and the equally addictive company, the customers share the fortunes of life together. Having left the dangers of the big city and an abusive husband behind, owner Lee O'Leary helps guide and inspire her friends, particularly Fenny Ness. There seems to be no problem that Lee or her coffee can't solve.

Then Hollywood arrives and chooses the town of Tall Pine as the setting--and Fenny as the star--of a new film. With the encouragement of her friends, Fenny overcomes her inhibitions and agrees to act. To add to the general excitement, a handsome stranger arrives in town. Big Bill has qualities that draw both Lee and Fenny to him; as their world turns upside down, Lee and Fenny struggle to balance loyalty and happiness.

Author Lorna Landvik has won acclaim for her blend of quirky humor and bittersweet realizations. As in her earlier novels, Patty Jane's House of Curl and Your Oasis on Flame Lake, Landvik juxtaposes a slapstick sense of rural Minnesota with humble and human pathos. Unrequited love, personal insecurity, and post-traumatic stress disorder may not be the most original sources of profundity, but Landvik builds her characters' growth like layers of translucent watercolor, and ultimately creates a complex and endearing novel. --Nancy R.E. O'Brien

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:02 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A film shoot brings romantic intrigue to the woods of Minnesota. Fenny Ness who runs the bait shop is hired to star in the movie, which attracts the attention of Big Bill, a half-Indian musician. Which in turn provokes jealousy in the redhead who runs the local diner. By the author of Your Oasis on Flame Lake.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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