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

More in Life

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Let there be lights!

When I stopped in at one of our local stores, I didn’t cringe when I saw all the holiday decorations on display.

Cabbage, potatoes, salmon and an assortment of pantry staples make for a culinary challenge. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Take a culinary pop quiz

Get creative with what’s in your pantry

This undated John E. Thwaites photo, perhaps taken near Seward, shows the S.S. Dora grounded. (Alaska State Library photo collection)
Resilience of the Dora, part 3

Her long career had come to an end at last.

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Sometimes I wonder, who needs who

Dog whispers we are not. Suckers for unconditional love, you bet.

Meredith Harber (courtesy)
Minister’s Message: Don’t let termination dust bring you down

If I’m honest, this time of year is the hardest for me mentally and emotionally.

Pieces hang on display at the Kenai Art Center for the open call show on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘They felt like they could share with us now’

Art center open call offers space for new artists.

The Cosmic Hamlet Entertainment film crew prepares for a new scene to roll on the set of “Bolt from the Blue” at the Kilcher Homestead on Sept. 28. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
‘Bolt from the Blue’ film features Homer

“The Office” star Kate Flannery cast in feature film produced in Homer.

These old-fashioned doughnuts don’t skimp on the fat or sugar. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Memories of old-fashioned doughnuts

My recipe is for old-fashioned doughnuts, and since I make these maybe twice a year, I don’t skimp on the sugar and fat.

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: October is here again

The days are shorter. We are losing nearly six minutes a day. It’s getting colder.

This John E. Thwaites photo shows the S.S. Dora near Sand Point, Alaska. Thwaites sailed as mail clerk on the Dora between at least 1905 and 1912. (Alaska State Library photo collection)
Resilience of the Dora, part 2

The S.S. Dora touched lives on and became part of the history of the Kenai Peninsula and Southcentral Alaska.

Steller Sea Lions can be seen in an enclosure at the Alaska SeaLife Center on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska SeaLife Center to Alaskans: We’re still here for you

You rallied and kept us alive. Today, we’re writing to say thank you.

A wood-carved whale hangs in the Nikiski Senior Center on Sept. 23, 2021. (Photo courtesy of the Nikiski Senior Center)
Whale of a job

Nikiski Senior Center gets addition to dining room.