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

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