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The Tall Pine Polka (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
by Lorna Landvik

Published: 2001-05-29
Paperback : 464 pages
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In the small town of Tall Pine, Minnesota, at the Cup O’Delight Cafe, the townsfolk gather for what they call the Tall Pine Polka, an event in which heavenly coffee, good food, and that feeling of being alive among friends inspires both body and soul to dance. There’s the cafe owner, ...
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Introduction

In the small town of Tall Pine, Minnesota, at the Cup O’Delight Cafe, the townsfolk gather for what they call the Tall Pine Polka, an event in which heavenly coffee, good food, and that feeling of being alive among friends inspires both body and soul to dance. There’s the cafe owner, the robust and beautiful Lee O’Leary, who escaped to the northwoods from an abusive husband; Miss Penk and Frau Katt, the town’s only lesbian couple (“Well, we’re za only ones who admit it.”); Pete, proprietor of the Shoe Shack, who spends nights crafting beautiful shoes to present to Lee, along with his declarations of love; Mary, whose bad poetry can clear out the cafe in seconds flat; and, most important of all, Lee’s best friend, Fenny Ness, a smart and sassy twenty-two-year-old going on eighty.

When Hollywood rolls into Tall Pine to shoot a movie, and a handsome musician known as Big Bill appears on the scene, Lee and Fenny find their friendship put to the test, as events push their hearts in unexplored directions—where endings can turn into new beginnings. . . .

Editorial Review

Balanced on the remote edge of the boundary waters in northern Minnesota, the Cup o' Delight Café is home to a motley crew of locals. Drawn to the addictive coffee and the equally addictive company, the customers share the fortunes of life together. Having left the dangers of the big city and an abusive husband behind, owner Lee O'Leary helps guide and inspire her friends, particularly Fenny Ness. There seems to be no problem that Lee or her coffee can't solve.

Then Hollywood arrives and chooses the town of Tall Pine as the setting--and Fenny as the star--of a new film. With the encouragement of her friends, Fenny overcomes her inhibitions and agrees to act. To add to the general excitement, a handsome stranger arrives in town. Big Bill has qualities that draw both Lee and Fenny to him; as their world turns upside down, Lee and Fenny struggle to balance loyalty and happiness.

Author Lorna Landvik has won acclaim for her blend of quirky humor and bittersweet realizations. As in her earlier novels, Patty Jane's House of Curl and Your Oasis on Flame Lake, Landvik juxtaposes a slapstick sense of rural Minnesota with humble and human pathos. Unrequited love, personal insecurity, and post-traumatic stress disorder may not be the most original sources of profundity, but Landvik builds her characters' growth like layers of translucent watercolor, and ultimately creates a complex and endearing novel. --Nancy R.E. O'Brien

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