You could just cry; laugh instead

You could just cry; laugh instead

You could just cry.

Nothing’s going right. You’re frustrated, out of patience, options, and energy. The camel’s back is broken. You’re about done.

Yeah, you’d sit down and cry, except it won’t help anything. Besides, you know it could be worse so maybe, as in the new novel by Lorna Landvik, it’s just “Best to Laugh.”

Candy Pekkala was mortified.

Not long after her father died, she pulled a half-hearted, stupid stunt and now she needed a fresh start, far away from Minnesota and embarrassment. As it turned out, her cousin needed someone to sublet a Hollywood apartment. The timing was perfect – and so were the accommodations.

Just off the Sunset Strip, near the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Peyton Hall was a rental complex filled with people Candy quickly got to know. There was Maeve, a rather plain-looking female bodybuilder whose mother was a beautiful soap star; Ed, part-time teacher and full-time serial dater; Madame Pepper, a Romanian fortune teller who seemed to know all the Star’s secrets; and Francis Flover, a dapper former nightclub owner who loved sharing his memories of Old Hollywood.

Yes, Peyton Hall was the right place to be in the late 1970s, and its residents were the right people to meet – especially for a girl trying out a dream that began almost when she was born: Candy’s mother, a Korean War bride, was a funny woman who passed her sense of humor on to her daughter. Jong Oh died when Candy was small, but memories of her mom’s favorite advice (“Best to laugh!”) gave Candy strength to pursue her goal of being a stand-up comic.

Still, it wasn’t easy. She wrote and re-wrote her jokes, accepted advice and practiced, quit, then returned to L.A.’s smallest stages. She alternately bombed and then killed on-stage with the support of her temp-job co-workers, her long-distance grandma, and the new friends she was beginning to think of as family.

It was a time for Candy that was increasingly sweet – until something happened at Peyton Hall that was no laughing matter…

Even though I’m a fan from way back, I have to admit that this new kinda-sorta-semi-biographical novel by author Lorna Landvik initially didn’t impress me much. There’s a lot going on at the beginning of “Best to Laugh,” and too many characters thrown in a mix. To say that I was lost is an understatement.

Happily, even though the plot extended and even more characters showed up, it all started to make sense after a(short)while, becoming the kind of book Landvik readers love. We get the wonderfully nice Midwestern girl we crave in these kinds of books, a host of quirky folks who are also fun to know, a dream in the making, and an ending that might find you reaching for tissues.

“Best,” indeed.

I’ve no doubt that you’ll want to mention this to your book club when you’re done reading it. You’ll want to pass it to friends because they like books like this, too, and “Best to Laugh” is best to read.

 

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at bookwormsez@gmail.com.

More in Life

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire
Local Tlingit beader Jill Kaasteen Meserve is making waves as her work becomes more widely known, both in Juneau and the Lower 48.
Old styles in new ways: Beader talks art and octopus bags

She’s been selected for both a local collection and a major Indigenous art market

A copy of “The Fragile Earth” rests on a typewriter on Wednesday, May 18, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Seeking transformation in the face of catastrophe

Potent words on climate change resonate across decades

Gochujang dressing spices up tofu, lettuce, veggies and sprouts. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Healthy life starts with healthy food

Gochujang salad dressing turns veggies and tofu into an exciting meal

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Spring Fever

“OK, Boomer” is supposed to be the current put down by the “woke generation”

A headstone for J.E. Hill is photographhed in Anchorage, Alaska. (Findagrave.com)
Night falls on the Daylight Kid — Part 2

“Bob,” he said, “that crazy fool is shooting at us.”

File
Minister’s Message: Has spring sprung in your life?

Christ also offers us an eternal springtime of love, hope and life

Eggs Benedict are served with hollandaise on a bed of arugula and prosciutto. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Honoring motherhood, in joy and in sorrow

Many who have suffered this loss believe they must bear it in silence for the sake of propriety

Page from Seward daily gateway. (Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum, Juneau, A.K.)
Night falls on the Daylight Kid — Part 1

Night Falls on the Daylight Kid—Part One By Clark Fair

Meredith Harber (courtesy)
Minister’s Message: Spread love in these challenging times

I don’t know about you all, but the world feels pretty rough these days

Most Read