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

File
Powerful truth of resurrection reverberates even today

Don’t let the resurrection of Jesus become old news

Nell and Homer Crosby were early homesteaders in Happy Valley. Although they had left the area by the early 1950s, they sold two acres on their southern line to Rex Hanks. (Photo courtesy of Katie Matthews)
A Kind and Sensitive Man: The Rex Hanks Story — Part 1

The main action of this story takes place in Happy Valley, located between Anchor Point and Ninilchik on the southern Kenai Peninsula

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Chloe Jacko, Ada Bon and Emerson Kapp rehearse “Clue” at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska, on Thursday, April 18, 2024.
Whodunit? ‘Clue’ to keep audiences guessing

Soldotna High School drama department puts on show with multiple endings and divergent casts

Leora McCaughey, Maggie Grenier and Oshie Broussard rehearse “Mamma Mia” at Nikiski Middle/High School in Nikiski, Alaska, on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Singing, dancing and a lot of ABBA

Nikiski Theater puts on jukebox musical ‘Mamma Mia!’

This berry cream cheese babka can be made with any berries you have in your freezer. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
A tasty project to fill the quiet hours

This berry cream cheese babka can be made with any berries you have in your freezer

File
Minister’s Message: How to grow old and not waste your life

At its core, the Bible speaks a great deal about the time allotted for one’s life

Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura and Stephen McKinley Henderson appear in “Civil War.” (Promotional photo courtesy A24)
Review: An unexpected battle for empathy in ‘Civil War’

Garland’s new film comments on political and personal divisions through a unique lens of conflict on American soil

What are almost certainly members of the Grönroos family pose in front of their Anchor Point home in this undated photograph courtesy of William Wade Carroll. The cabin was built in about 1903-04 just north of the mouth of the Anchor River.
Fresh Start: The Grönroos Family Story— Part 2

The five-member Grönroos family immigrated from Finland to Alaska in 1903 and 1904

Aurora Bukac is Alice in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Seward in ‘Wonderland’

Seward High School Theatre Collective celebrates resurgence of theater on Eastern Kenai Peninsula

Most Read