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  • Your Oasis on Flame Lake
  • Written by Lorna Landvik
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780449002988
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Your Oasis on Flame Lake

Written by Lorna LandvikAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Lorna Landvik

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Best friends fast approaching forty in the small Minnesota town of Flame Lake, Devera and BiDi were recently voted “Least Changed” at their twentieth high school reunion—a label neither one finds very appealing. For each craves a change in her life: Devera desires a break from her humdrum marital routine; BiDi longs to reconnect with her distant fourteen-year-old daughter (the only girl on the high school hockey team), not to mention jump-start a sex drive stuck in neutral. So when Devera’s husband decides to fulfill his longtime dream of opening a nightclub in his basement, Your Oasis on Flame Lake arrives not a moment too soon. Nothing fancy, it’s just a BYOB joint where you can hang out, sing, dance, tell jokes, and be yourself. But then an unexpected crisis throws both families into chaos, forcing them all to take stock of their lives—and learn the power of forgiveness.



At our twentieth high-school reunion last summer, BiDi and Devera were
both voted "Least Changed." They pranced around the stage giggling,
pumping their cheap little trophies in the air like they had won the
Stanley Cup or something.

BiDi did look good, standing on tiptoe in red high-heeled shoes with no
backs, her tight little body squeezed into this red leather dress. ("It's
leatherlike," she explained later while we stood eating Triscuits and
Colby cheese at the buffet table, "and I sweat three pounds off every time
I wear the thing.")

Devera looks the same in the face--she should, the jars of Noxema she
pickles herself in--but you can't tell me her body looks like it did when
she was doing back flips on the Rebelettes squad. When she's got her
clothes off, you have to wonder: How does skin pucker around a butt like
that? When did her breasts take that drop in altitude?

If I asked her, she'd probably say something like, "If you don't like the
view, don't look."

The thing is, I do. I'm just curious about gravity's toll is all.

Once we were dancing at King Olaf's Hideway and I said whoa, no more of
that shimmying--all that loose flesh is going to pop me in the face. She
just about popped me in the face after I said that, but instead she
grabbed the car keys right out of my sports-coat pocket and gunned out of
the parking lot, the gravel under the wheels flying like confetti. I had
to hitch a ride home with Glen Pauley, an insurance agent who likes to
talk about his work, as if normal people are fascinated by actuarial
tables and annuities.

Devera married me the day after her twenty-first birthday. We both were
going to White Falls State, but she had been thinking of transferring her
credits to "somewhere exotic"--the Sorbonne or the University of Cairo or
UCLA"--but then her dad, Evan "Fair Shake" Bergdahl, was robbed and
pistol-whipped (with a toy gun, but Dad Evan said when you're smacked in
the face you can't tell the difference between real and fake). After that,
Devera put her plans of exotic study on "temporary hold" and decided to
stay home.

"Always remember," Devera reminds me, holding up two crossed fingers,
"Daddy and I are like this."

I always answer back with my standard joke. "Easy for him, he's not
married to you."

They caught the guy who robbed Dad Evan; he was holed up in a shack on
Uncle's Lake, ice-fishing and drinking Champale. They arrested him on a
bunch of charges, including assault, robbery, and fishing without a
license. They must have tagged him for exceeding the limit, too--Sheriff
Buck told me there were over two dozen northerns and crappies swimming
around in pails in that icehouse. At his trial I wanted to ask the guy
what he used for bait but Dad Evan would not understand any mingling with
the accused. He takes loyalty very seriously, and I take my new-model
Caddies and the future ownership of Viking Automotive pretty seriously
myself. I'm in line to run Viking Appliance and Norse Man Liquors, too,
but it's the dealership I care most about, being a natural at car sales.
So of course, I just sat there quietly in the courtroom, bored, with
Devera and her hysterical mother, Helen.

"Just look at that man," she'd say, shredding Kleenex like a hamster. "If
he's not put away for life, he'll come after us for the final revenge."

The poor guy was French-Canadian, and his accent, you can bet, added a
couple of years onto his sentence. Around White Falls, people tend to
think you can judge a book by its cover and foreign accents are most often
up to something.

After our wedding reception, Dad Evan and Helen drove us out to a
three-bedroom ranch house on Flame Lake. The front door was wrapped in
ribbon like a present and Dad Evan tossed me the deed like it was spare
change. Dad Evan likes to give big presents away as if he's doing nothing
more than picking up a check for pie and coffee. It burns me--his Mr.
Casual act--so I go right along with it, like it's no big deal. Of course,
as a bridegroom of twenty-two, I hadn't figured this out yet and I jumped
right along with Devera, hugging and kissing him like he was Monte Hall.

Last fall we bought a bigger lot and built a new house--five bedrooms and
a sauna in the basement--on the east side of the lake, because Devera
thought it was time to move up. My wife keeps our upward mobility on a
tight schedule.

At thirty-nine, Devvie is going through an early midlife crisis. It's
harder on me than our daughter's puberty. The things I'm sure would please
her--a "greatest hits" disco CD, a bottle of Jungle Gardenia--now make her
cry or get mad. She says things like, "Have I ossified?"

To answer her I sniff the air. "I thought I smelled something."

She started taking some night courses (she says just because she earned a
degree doesn't mean she learned anything) and she takes a book wherever
she goes. She tried to read at the dinner table, and even my daughters
backed me up in letting her know there is a limit to rudeness.

I'm hoping it's a passing stage. When we moved to the new house, she threw
out her little plastic "Least Changed" trophy, saying she now considered
that award an insult. I've noticed BiDi still has hers in the
glass-and-walnut display case Sergio built for Franny's hockey honors.

Our daughter Lin won't have anything to do with Franny; she calls her a
dork with a capital "d" which perturbs Dev and BiDi, who'd like their best
friend thing to be passed down to the daughters. I get along okay with
Sergio, but I'd known Big Mike, BiDi's first husband, since the second
grade, so there was this loyalty thing there. Big Mike and BiDi divorced
about four years ago. Big Mike said he needed his freedom. He told me this
one late-October day when we were laying on our stomachs in a duck blind.
I almost shot my arm off, I was so shocked.

"Freedom from BiDi? What are you--crazy?"

The wad of tobacco Big Mike always had in his mouth traveled the length of
his lower lip. "She's a lot different at home, Dick."

"I'll bet," I said, wiggling my eyebrows.

Big Mike laughed and waved his gun at the autumn sky, a big full blue.

"Damn ducks know we're here," he said. "They've changed their flight
pattern." His tongue poked the chew into the corner of his mouth. "Believe
me," he said, squinting up at the sky, "BiDi puts on a hell of a show, but
at home it's like living with a warden. That big cookie jar? The one
that's shaped like a caboose that she made in ceramics? Every time I do
something that bugs her, I gotta put a quarter in it. A quarter if I chew
in the house. A quarter if I don't put the toilet seat down. A quarter if
I drink more'n two beers a night. Christ, pretty soon it'll cost a quarter
just to put my arms around her."

I wanted to pursue this, but Big Mike just shook his head and spit out a
slimy wad of tobacco.

BiDi went through sort of a wild period after the divorce was finalized
and Big Mike moved to Wisconsin; she was out dancing at King Olaf's almost
every night, getting drunk with strikers from the meatpacking plant and
truck drivers who had pulled off the interstate.

Sergio had a booth at a confections and chocolate convention in Fargo and
came across King Olaf's on his way down to Minneapolis. He and BiDi were
married three weeks later, in our backyard, under a trellis Devera made me
rig up. BiDi wore a dress that looked as if it would transfer straight to
the honeymoon, no problem. Pastor Egeqvist miffed a line or two; put a
cleavage like that in front of any man--of the cloth or not--he's going to
get flustered.

Sergio started up a store on Main Street--about five blocks from the car
lot--and he's done so well that he's thinking of going national. He'll
become a rich man off chocolate cakes, of all things. They are good,
though, and I'm not all that big on chocolate in the first place (unlike
my wife). Sergio says the original recipe came from his Spanish
grandmother who fell in love with a Viennese baker.

Sergio's family has led dramatic lives--his father was an opera singer who
lost the use of his voice during his first week in America. He was mugged
and punched in the throat by some thug wearing brass knuckles (whenever I
think of that story, my hand automatically goes to my Adam's apple). His
mother was a psychic, but Sergio says if she had a gift for it, she never
unwrapped it. She died last year in a bus crash, an accident, Sergio
points out, she obviously failed to predict.

Sergio's an interesting guy, but, man, he's got way too much energy for
me. I think the only time he sits down for an extended period is when he's
driving his car. Ask him to shoot a game of pool with you and you'll get
dizzy watching him run around the table.

Franny's nuts about Sergio, even though she's Big Mike from her shoe size
(huge) to her skill on the hockey rink. (Big Mike's hat trick won White
Falls its first and only state high-school championship.)

BiDi told us when Sergio met Franny, he actually cried.

"I cannot believe you have the name of my own beloved grandmother," he
said, holding her head in his hands. Franny (he never calls her by her
nickname, it's always Francesca) had gotten scared and BiDi had to explain
that Sergio didn't mean to frighten her, he was just an emotional guy. Now
Sergio plays goalie in Franny's pickup games on the lake. He wears boots
because he never learned to skate.

Lin won't acknowledge us on Family Skate Nights; she just hangs around in
a cluster of teenagers that somehow manage to look surly, even on ice.

Devera just laughs and says, "She's fourteen years old, Dick, what do you
expect?" Still, I'm happy that Darcy at eleven lets me hold her hand when
the "Blue Danube" or "Tennessee Waltz" is piped through the loudspeakers
Alf Johannson rigged up in his icehouse.

Dev is a good skater, better than me and she knows it. She's not fancy--no
pirouettes or double axels--but she's fast. She wears black speed skates,
and even if I didn't have a mild nicotine habit, I'd never catch her. She
skates around the rink that we've cleared off on the lake, bent over and
moving only one arm like she's on the Olympic team, and I think how much
pleasure it would give me if she wiped out.

She always laughs when I tell her that and then I say, what the hell,
show-off, I love a fast woman. Most of the time she unlaces my skates when
we're ready to leave and rubs my feet until they're warm. It's one of
those married things I never knew I'd be such a sucker for.
Lorna Landvik

About Lorna Landvik

Lorna Landvik - Your Oasis on Flame Lake

Photo © Brian Velenchenko

Lorna Landvik is the author of the bestselling novels Patty Jane's House of Curl, Your Oasis on Flame Lake, and The Tall Pine Polka. She is also an actor, playwright, and proud hockey mom.


“Hypnotizing . . . Readers won’t want to leave Flame Lake.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“WONDERFUL . . . FUN . . . As lovely as anything you’re likely to read . . . A lot of laughs and a little wisdom.”
—Detroit Free Press

“CAPTIVATING . . . THIS BOOK SHOULD DELIGHT. . . . Her characters are clever and offbeat, like Garrison Keillor’s or Fannie Flagg’s.”

“Finely wrought characters populate Landvik’s intricately textured tale. . . . Landvik illuminates what is essential, without seeming to, and pushes us to break through hard surfaces to a higher level of understanding. All the while, we are grandly entertained. . . . She now takes her place next to Maeve Binchy, Jon Hassler, and all the great storytellers who bring you to the heart of their home places. She carries you with especially delicate detail, amazing resonance, humor and brilliant images.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Quirky characters are a dime a dozen, but truly believable, lovable ones are not—a fact that makes Landvik’s latest slice of American life a genuine pleasure.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Written with warmth, wit, and tart dialogue, the book engages big themes (love, friendship, loyalty, betrayal, and the quest for meaning). . . . Landvik’s quirky and passionate characters, and her ardent determination to give them dignity, make this a heartwarming story.”
—Publishers Weekly
Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions

About the Book

Reader's Guide copyright © 1998 by The Ballantine Publishing Group,
a division of Random House, Inc.

About the Guide

Best friends fast approaching forty in the small Minnesota town of Flame Lake, Devera and BiDi were recently voted "Least Changed" at their twentieth high school reunion--a label neither one finds very appealing. For each craves a change in her life: Devera desires a break from her humdrum marital routine; BiDi longs to connect with her distant fourteen-year-old daughter, the only girl on the high school hockey team--not to mention to jump-start a sex drive stuck in neutral. So when Devera's husband decides to fulfill his long-time dream of opening a nightclub in his basement, Your Oasis on Flame Lake arrives not a moment too soon. Nothing fancy, it's just a BYOB joint to hang out in, sing, dance, tell jokes, and be yourself. But then an unexpected crisis throws both families into chaos, forcing them all to take stock of their lives--and learn the power of forgiveness.

"A hard-to-put-down novel that finds complexity and intrigue in the simplest of everyday lives and the simple friendships that offer comfort and support . . . Very clearly character driven, the storyline evolves from the nature and motivations of the people Landvik renders."
--Middlesex News

"The novel builds to a well-crafted and suspenseful climax . . . [It is] a fine, original novel, leavened with humor; very readable."
--Louisville Voice Tribune

"The story is freckled with laughter, sadness and life in general. It will often remind you that those small things you take for granted are the ones you will remember fondly in years to come."
--Rocky Mountain News

"In Your Oasis on Flame Lake, each of the characters tells his/her own story. Lorna Landvik skillfully weaves each of these stories into one interesting and attention-holding book."
--Marietta Journal

"Some writers do comedy really well. Others pen drama best. Luckily for us, some manage to combine true wit and intense conflict in one narrative. Lorna Landvik . . . manages this feat with aplomb in her latest novel."
--Boston Tab

About the Author

Writing and theater were Lorna Landvik's twin passions when she was growing up in her home town of Minneapolis, Minnesota. After graduating from high school, she and her best friend traveled in Europe and settled briefly in Bavaria, supporting themselves as hotel chamber maids and English tutors. When she returned to the States, Landvik briefly attended the University of Minnesota before moving to San Francisco, where she performed stand-up and improvisational comedy. Another move took her to Los Angeles, where she worked as a stand-up comic at the Comedy Store and the Improv, then temped at the Playboy Mansion--"I felt like Margaret Mead studying a secret society"--and scouted bands for Atlantic Records. After six years in California, Landvik married Chuck Gabrielson, whom she met at a high school dance back in Minneapolis; their first daughter was born a year later. In 1986, the trio walked across the country with the Great Peace March for Global Disarmament. "A thousand people started the march on the West Coast, but we were stranded in the desert and a core group of about four hundred decided to go on," Landvik recalls. "It ended nine months later with a candlelight vigil at the reflecting pool in Washington, DC." After the march, Landvik and her husband decided to go home to Minnesota. Landvik, who writes her novels in longhand, has continued to nurture her interest in theater since her return to Minneapolis, appearing in several plays, including Bad Seed, Lunatic Cellmates, and Valley of the Dolls. She also wrote and starred in Glamour Queen, a one-woman show, and On the Lam with Doe and Rae, a two-woman show. Landvik made her debut as a novelist with the critically acclaimed Patty Jane's House of Curl (1996).

Discussion Guides

1.         Why do you think Landvik has written this book from several perspectives? Do you find it easy to follow the action, or does the multi-narrator format take getting used to?

2.         With which characters do you most closely identify? How would you describe each of the main characters in this story?

3.         Why do you think the author chose Darcy as the narrator representing the younger generation? Do you think it would have been more effective to have Franny tell her own story rather than having other narrators tell it for her? What do you think the biggest difference is between the two generations presented in this story?

4.         There are two people having affairs in this novel: Sergio (with Noreen) and Devera (with Professor Gerhart). How do their affairs differ, and how are they same? Why do you think Landvik has chosen to make one of the affairs benign and the other more harmful? Do you think Sergio or Devera has good reason for having an affair?

5.         Other cultures think Americans overreact when it comes to human sexuality and extramarital affairs. Are Americans too straight-laced? When we find out about public figures committing adultery, how much should we care? Do we pay too much attention to the private lives of our public figures?

6.         What would you do if you found out a married friend of yours was planning to have an affair? Would you try to talk the friend out of it? Would you tell the spouse?

7.         How would you describe the relationships that exist between the children and their parents?

8.         Why does Franny choose to tell her stepfather that she's started menstruating rather than her mother? What does this say about Franny's relationship with her mom? Why do you think BiDi is so jealous of Franny's hockey success?

9.         BiDi wears form-fitting clothes to flaunt her body and considers flirting a recreational sport. What do you think of her behavior? Is it acceptable to play the "game" the way she does? BiDi also says the people who call her a tease are the ones who are angry because she refuses to play the flirtation game by their rules. Do you think BiDi's right?

10.         Do you see BiDi as a shallow character? How does having the baby change her character? Is she heading for a redemption of some kind?

11.         What do you think went through Darcy's mind when she saw her mother, crouched under the table, in the midst of a severe panic attack? Devera talks openly and honestly with Darcy about the attack. Should she be so forthcoming about something that so obviously terrifies her daughter?

12.         Sergio is determined to find, and even kill, the guy who beat up his stepdaughter. How would you react if someone you loved had been attacked? Is Sergio's eye-for-an-eye philosophy the answer?

13.         BiDi is clearly unhappy about having another child. Why doesn't she tell Sergio about her feelings? She goes along with being a mother even though she really doesn't take too well to the role. Are parents like this hurtful to their children in the long run? Do you think parents are able to keep their unhappiness about being parents from their children?

14.         Was Franny right to tell her father that she overheard Bidi talking about considering an abortion? Should she have talked to her mother first?

15.         Why do you think Franny decides to give up ice hockey? Does this mean that the people who attacked her have won? Do you think she'll take up hockey again?

16.         Franny eventually gets a letter of apology from one of the guys who beat her up. She says she accepts the apology but doesn't feel ready to forgive him. How would you react under similar circumstances?

17.         Who do you think is responsible for the auto accident? Should Sergio have let the boys go? Was he irresponsible, considering that he had two other kids in the car with him? What would you have done?

18.         Was Sergio right to confront Pete Arsgaard? Should he have spoken to Arsgaard's parents first? How would you have handled the situation?

19.         Dick eventually decides to forgive Devera after finding out about her affair. However, he says, "Either I'm the biggest chump in the world or there should be a St. Dick, patron saint of forgiveness." Do you think Dick is a chump, or suitably forgiving?

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