By now you’ve likely heard of the Danish concept hygge (pronounced hue-gah or hoo-gah). Think cozy socks and a warm fire while the storm — political or otherwise — rages outside. Think harmony, gratitude, shelter. Shortlisted for the Oxford Dictionary’s 2016 Word of the Year, hygge is that “quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”
Decades ahead of the hygge curve, Minneapolis author and comedian Lorna Landvik burst onto the literary scene in 1995 with her debut novel “Patty Jane’s House of Curl,” a tale of two sisters tackling a string of woes with intelligence, perseverance and Scandinavian homeyness. That novel was such a compelling portrait of two strong women enduring hardship and embracing whatever cast of misfits crossed their paths that now, reading about these same characters in her latest novel, “Once in a Blue Moon Lodge,” feels like a reunion of old friends. Pick up a pastry and a cup of kaffe and enjoy.
“Once in a Blue Moon Lodge” begins with Patty Jane, now middle-aged but still rockin’ a size 8, preparing to sell the House of Curl, her salon-within-a-salon. Her daughter Nora, now a Stanford-educated lawyer disenchanted with L.A., returns to Minneapolis to help. Thor — Patty Jane’s husband (and Nora’s father), a man who suffered brain damage after leaping a snowbank and hitting a tree — continues to build birdhouses, walk Lake Nokomis and play pickup hockey at Lake Hiawatha. Simple-minded but athletic and agile, Thor performs acts of heroism in the novel worthy of his mythical namesake.
Clyde Chuka, the House of Curl manicurist, is these days a successful sculptor. Having fallen in love while the amnesia-struck Thor was away, Clyde and Patty Jane now have a son, Harry, a high school student and budding musician. And Ione, Thor’s mother, continues to travel, participate in protest marches and sow familial bliss with her Scandinavian pastries.
“Once in a Blue Moon Lodge” is told primarily from Nora’s point of view and encompasses about 20 years — from the time Nora returns to Minnesota to her triplets’ college years. Along the way are surprises, delights and despairs — none of which I’ll reveal except to say that two major plot points involve Ione receiving a mysterious missive from Oslo impelling her to return to Norway, and Nora purchasing a many-roomed lodge in northern Minnesota.
What spins from these incidents is an Iago-like betrayal, a joyous reunion and the same wit, humor and art (of the musical, culinary and sculptural kind) that existed at the House of Curl now transferred to the Once in a Blue Moon Lodge.
Because Landvik deftly weaves in background information, it’s not necessary to have read “Patty Jane” to enjoy this book. But why not read both? Landvik’s characters are generous and witty. They are big-hearted and inclusive. They inspire others, welcome strangers and appreciate practical things done well. If the hygge trend sounds a little too precious and insular, Landvik’s brand offers a broader view — as an antidote to the storms of life, Landvik’s characters don’t hunker down but rather pull others into their warm circle. And that makes all the difference.
Christine Brunkhorst is a Minneapolis writer and reviewer.
Once in a Blue Moon Lodge
By: Lorna Landvik.
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press, 317 pages, $25.95.
Events: Book launch, 7 p.m. April 18, Trinity Episcopal Church, Excelsior, $10, tickets at Excelsior Bay Books; Club Book, 6:30 p.m. April 25, Chanhassen Library; 7 p.m. May 1, Content Books, Northfield; 7 p.m. May 4, SubText Books, St. Paul; 7 p.m. May 16, Barnes & Noble Galleria, Edina.