Five friends live through three decades of marriages, child raising, neighborhood parties, bad husbands and good brownies-and Landvik doesn't miss a single clich as she chronicles their lives in this pleasant but wholly familiar novel of female bonding. When Faith Owens's husband is transferred from Texas to the "stupid godforsaken frozen tundra" of Freesia Court, Minn., in 1968, her life looks like it's going to be one dull, snowy slog-until the power goes out one evening and a group of what appear to be madwomen start a snowball fight in her backyard. These dervishes turn out to be her neighbors: antiwar activist Slip; sexpot Audrey; painfully shy Merit; and widow Kari. They become fast friends and decide to escape their humdrum routine by starting the Freesia Court Book Club, later given the eponymous name by one of their disgruntled husbands. As the years pass, Audrey and Merit get divorced, Kari adopts her niece's illegitimate baby, all five of the women find work outside their homes and they even smoke a joint together. Their personal dramas are regularly punctuated by reflections on political milestones ("First Martin Luther King, Jr., then Bobby Kennedy. As if we didn't have enough to worry about with this stupid war..."). While some scenes are touching and genuinely funny, readers of Fannie Flagg, Rita Mae Brown, Rebecca Wells and many imitators will feel that they've seen this before.
Five friends and three decades, as Landvik returns to small-town Minnesota. Little Women, anyone? Alcott’s females are an inspiration for the Freesia Court Book Club members, though there are two contenders for the role of rambunctious Jo and none for meek Beth. Gathering at the Minneapolis hospital where one of the five is undergoing treatment for cancer, they remember the dreary, endless winter they first got together, back when their kids were young and they all lived on the same tree-lined street. Mopping up baby food and stroking the egos of their self-involved husbands just didn’t seem all that fulfilling. Gee-whiz, what a surprise. But love and laughter—and friends and family—carried them through the chaotic years that changed a nation in so many ways.... Similar platitudes and preaching undermine the weak structure of this baggy tale and its multiple points of view, chapters linked by popular books of the time. The five friends, beginning in the late ’60s, are introduced one by one. Audrey Forrest is happy with her lush curves but her husband Paul thinks she’s fat. Angelically beautiful Merit Iverson smokes like a chimney, despite her doctor husband’s disapproval. Scrappy Faith Owens is sick and tired of husband Wade’s smugness, not to mention packing his suitcases (he’s an airline pilot). Kari Nelson, a gentle young widow, grieves over her husband Bjorn’s untimely death and their infertility. Slip McMahon is an ultrafit jockette, happily married to a research meteorologist, and just loves the freaky Minnesota weather. As time goes by, Audrey gets a divorce and finds new friends (two gay men); Merit ditches the abusive and dominating doctor; Faith comes to terms with her mixed feelings about her long-lost mother; Kari adopts a mixed-race child; Slip becomes a social worker. The world changes but all remain tight, all the way to menopause and telltale gray hairs. Overlong trek over familiar ground.
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