The women of Freesia Court are convinced that there is nothing good coffee, delectable desserts, and a strong shoulder can’t fix. Laughter is the glue that holds them together—the foundation of a book group they call AHEB (Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons), an unofficial “club” that becomes much more. It becomes a lifeline. Holding on through forty eventful years, there’s Faith, a lonely mother of twins who harbors a terrible secret that has condemned her to living a lie; big, beautiful Audrey, the resident sex queen who knows that with good posture and an attitude you can get away with anything; Merit, the shy doctor’s wife with the face of an angel and the private hell of an abusive husband; Kari, a wise woman with a wonderful laugh who knows the greatest gifts appear after life’s fiercest storms; and finally, Slip, a tiny spitfire of a woman who isn’t afraid to look trouble straight in the eye.
This stalwart group of friends depicts a special slice of American life, of stay-at-home days and new careers, of children and grandchildren, of bold beginnings and second chances, in which the power of forgiveness, understanding, and the perfectly timed giggle fit is the CPR that mends broken hearts and shattered dreams.
About Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons
From her sensational sleeper hit Patty Jane’s House of Curl to her heartwarming novel Welcome to the Great Mysterious, Lorna Landvik has won the hearts of readers everywhere by skillfully balancing hilarity with pathos, and bittersweet insights with heartwarming truths. Now she returns to her beloved, eccentric stomping ground of small-town Minnesota where the most eclectic, and engaging group of women you’ll ever meet share love, loss, and laughter.
Sometimes life is like a bad waiter—it serves you exactly what you don’t want. The women of Freesia Court have come together at life’s table, fully convinced that there is nothing good coffee, delectable desserts, and a strong shoulder can’t fix. Laughter is the glue that holds them together—the foundation of a book group they call AWEB—Angry Wives Eating Bon Bons—an unofficial “club” that becomes much more. It becomes a lifeline.
The five women each have a story of their own to tell. There’s Faith, the newcomer, a lonely housewife and mother of twins, a woman who harbors a terrible secret that has condemned her to living a lie; big, beautiful Audrey, the resident sex queen who knows that good posture and an attitude can let you get away with anything; Merit, the shy, quiet doctor’s wife with the face of an angel and the private hell of an abusive husband; Kari, a thoughtful, wise woman with a wonderful laugh as “deep as Santa Claus’s with a cold” who knows the greatest gifts appear after life’s fiercest storms; and finally, Slip, activist, adventurer, social changer, a tiny, spitfire of a woman who looks trouble straight in the eye and challenges it to arm wrestle.
Holding on through forty eventful years—through the swinging Sixties, the turbulent Seventies, the anything-goes Eighties, the nothing’s-impossible Nineties—the women will take the plunge into the chaos that inevitably comes to those with the temerity to be alive and kicking. Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons depicts a special slice of American life, of stay-at-home days and new careers, children and grandchildren, bold beginnings and second chances, in which the power of forgiveness, understanding, and the perfectly timed giggle fit is the CPR that mends broken hearts and shattered dreams.
Once again Lorna Landvik leaves you laughing and crying, as she reveals perhaps the greatest truth: that there is nothing like the saving grace of best friends.
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“Highly entertaining . . . Almost as hard to put down [as] Mary McCarthy’s The Group.” —The Seattle Times
“A LIVELY STORY AS DELECTABLE AS A FIVE-POUND BOX OF CHOCOLATES . . . A thoroughly engaging chronicle of friendship and the substantive place it holds in women’s lives.” —ANNE LECLAIRE Author of Leaving Eden
“It is impossible not to get caught up in the lives of the book group members. . . . Landvik’s gift lies in bringing these familiar women to life with insight and humor.” —The Denver Post
“A GUILTY PLEASURE . . . THIS LIGHT, SNAPPY READ MAY BE HER BEST YET.” —Midwest Living magazine
“Honesty, humor, and profound emotion . . . are the hallmarks of the book. Told alternately from each woman’s perspective, and ranging in time from the late 1960s to the late 1990s, Landvik accurately captures the thinking, the culture, and the feeling of each decade. . . . [She] treats her characters, whose stories drive the novel, with the same warmth and love with which they regard each other. . . . For anyone who has connected with another person on any emotional level, this appealing novel provides the special comfort of recognition.” —BookStreet USA
“[A] delicious novel . . . If you love . . . Fannie Flagg, Lee Smith, Adriana Trigiani—you will love this. It’s a buddy book, a story of women sharing friendship, love, loss, and laughter.” —Millbrook Round Table (NY)
“Readers might feel a twinge of sadness and loss as they turn the last page of Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons—finishing this book is like leaving five dear friends.” —BookPage
“Witty and wise . . . Landvik’s ladies endure the best and worst of times together (and recommend some great reads along the way).” —Booklist
A Conversation with Lorna Landvik
As Merit asked Flannery, where do you get your inspiration?
Sometimes, like Flannery, I find inspiration everywhere—from a billboard, a snatch of music, a scent. Other times, I have no idea where it comes from: all of a sudden, a character appears unbidden in my head, with the urgent desire that I write about her or him.
How did a book club end up at the center of the novel?
After the publication of my first novel, I got invited to speak at a book club and since then I’ve been to dozens and dozens. What always impresses me is the fun and friendship of these groups, some of which have been together for decades, and that’s why I decided to write about one.
In your acknowledgments you mention your visits to other book clubs and your own book club. How did these experiences influence your writing?
Other than inspiring me to write about a book club, my visits to book clubs have given me the opportunity to hear firsthand what readers think about my books. Hearing “I laughed, I cried” is a big impetus to me to make sure the next book I write has characters that readers will relate to, that ultimately can make them laugh and cry. As far as my own book club is concerned, I have learned how subjective each reader’s viewpoint is. A book that might move one of us may leave another cold, and yet we all share the belief that good characters are absolutely necessary to a good book and that again enforces in my own writing the need to write believable and compelling characters.
What is it like to be the guest author at a book club? What was your best experience? And worst?
It’s a lot of fun. Most book clubs I go to have the right formula down pat—good conversation, good food, and plenty of wine. It’s fun to have my books discussed and hear about themes and character motivations I may never have intended, fun to hear about characters of mine who’ve reminded a reader of a sister or best friend, etc. I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed all my book club visits and not one stands out as the best (although the bigger the food selection, the happier I am). One club discussing Patty Jane’s House of Curl had a cake decorated with characters from that book; I’ve been to several clubs where the members will dress like characters from one of my books. During one meeting, while discussing Your Oasis on Flame Lake, a book club member got to her feet and, pointing a finger at me, shouted, “You make infidelity look good!” That was a little disconcerting, but the vivid argument that ensued among the members wasn’t a bad experience, but an interesting one.
Do your readers ever surprise you with their insights into your work?
All the time. They enlighten me as to why a character acts the way she does, what my books’ themes are, hidden meanings. . . . I love it!
If you could invite any author, living or dead, to your book club, who would it be?
Oh, boy, I get to pick one? Probably Shakespeare. I’d want to know not only how he wrote so beautifully, but how he wrote so much and was anybody helping him?
You describe Slip’s daughter Flannery as a “tattletale” and “tabloid reporter.” Since she is the character who becomes a published writer, is this part of the job description?
I think it was for me. As kids, my brothers got after me all the time for being a tattletale, whereas I just thought I was telling the whole story.
What is Flannery’s novel Winter Gardens about?
I don’t know, I haven’t read it.
The story of the social movements of the l960s and early l970s is often told from the vantage point of the radicalized youth of the period. Why did you decide to examine the impact of this upheaval from the vantage point of Freesia Court, an upper-middle-class neighborhood of young families?
Whatever our age or place in society is, we’re still affected by the times we live in. While the women in the book aren’t living in Haight Ashbury or getting arrested at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, they still feel deeply about what is going on. Slip, of course, chooses to act on her convictions, giving weight to my conviction that, ultimately, mothers are the most radical faction of all.
When a young man mistakes the Angry Housewives for sisters, Audrey is offended. She feels he just thinks “every woman over the age of fifty looks alike.” Is this the only explanation for his gaffe?
I think he was responding to their familiarity and closeness with one another and he assumed they were related because of it.
Audrey is described as someone who “refused to ask permission for the privilege of being herself.” Do you think this description applies to all the Angry Housewives by the end of your novel?
I never thought of it, but yes, I’d say so. Getting older is so culturally and cosmetically incorrect, but I think the older women get, the more their true selves emerge.
You write that “Faith had the sharp eyes of someone who always had to figure out where she fit in, and the quick impressions she had of people were nearly always accurate.” How and when did Faith’s sharp eyes fail her?
For a good part of her life, Faith couldn’t see the value of her own true self.
Did you always know Audrey—not the obvious choice—would be the Angry Housewife to break through Faith’s defenses?
Not until I got to that part. My characters are always surprising me—which one chooses to do what, and how. I don’t plot out the story and so I don’t know what’s going to happen until I get there.
Do you agree that Faith, Merit, and Kari kept their secrets, among other reasons, to preserve an ideal of upper-middle-class respectability, while Audrey’s wealth and Slip’s political convictions allowed those two to avoid that particular trap?
I think respectability to Faith was all-important because she hadn’t had any growing up. As for Merit and Kari, I don’t think the need to appear a certain accepted way was their motivation for keeping their secrets. Merit’s was outright fear, and Kari made an agreement with her niece not to reveal their secret. More than their wealth and political convictions, I think it was the strength of Audrey’s and Slip’s personalities that gave them the confidence to be themselves.
Kari waited until her brother and sister-in-law had died to tell Julia the truth about her birth mother. Was this fair?
Probably not, but Kari’s first priority was protecting her daughter and her daughter’s biological mother.
We don’t learn how the rest of Kari’s family reacted to this news. What happened? I honestly don’t know that they were ever told.
Slip hopes the nation will be ready for a woman president when her daughter grows up. Do you think that time has come?
Yes! Not only do I think we’re ready for a woman president, I think the world is ready for a majority of women leaders. What the world definitely doesn’t need at this point in time is more testosterone—what we need is a lot more estrogen!
Will Faith’s sister ever come around?
I would bet that Faith will persist until she does.
Did you research this novel? In that I have visited many book clubs and heard their stories, yes. I also looked back to see what books were being read in certain years.
Which aspect of writing this novel gave you the biggest headache?
I knew different characters wanted to tell their stories in different ways (some speak in the first person, others in the third); what helped corral all of this was when I figured out each chapter heading—the book they had chosen for discussion and why.
Which books would make your greatest-hits list?
A short list would include To Kill a Mockingbird, Handling Sin (both of which are selections in the book), Huckleberry Finn, Great Expectations, and maybe a book I have great affection for, the Dick and Jane books, because they were the books that taught me how to read.
What is your average workday like?
I like to work every day, but that doesn’t mean I do. During the school year, I usually take a walk in the morning, come home, make a latte, and read the papers, and then I try to settle down and work. But I don’t stick to a regular schedule—if I have something really important going on in the day (a lunch date, a movie), I’ll work later in the afternoon or at night. My family’s very accommodating and I’ve also learned to write among them, amid distraction.
What do you do when the words won’t come?
I get up, find the chocolate, and if that doesn’t help, I might read and see if someone else’s ability to tell a story can help fire up mine.
Are you working on a new project? A: Yes. Once I finish a book another one’s usually right there, ready to be written.