May 29, 2005
St. Paul, Minn. — Popular Twin Cities author Lorna Landvik is trying something new in her latest novel, "Oh My Stars." For the first time, she's set a story outside of Minnesota and in a period before she was born.
It's the Depression-era story of Violet Mathers, an 18-year-old Kentucky girl who's been beaten down by life. Just as she reaches her lowest point, she winds up traveling the Midwest with a trio of musicians.
Life doesn't start out too well for her. Violet's father is an emotionally and physically abusive drunk, and her mother runs off with the local pharmacist when Violet is 6.
She's a tall, homely, and lonely girl with a deep voice. Her only source of comfort is a tree, a river birch she calls "Tree Pa." In moments of desperation it's the only living thing she can hug.
Then, on her 16th birthday, just when things are looking up, Violet loses her arm in a thread factory accident.
After dropping further into depression, Violet takes a bus heading west from her Kentucky hometown to San Francisco, where she plans to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. Along the way her bus crashes in North Dakota and she's stranded in a small town.
She stays the night with a local family and is immediately smitten with their attractive, talented and charismatic son, Kjel, who dreams of musical stardom with his black guitar virtuoso friend Austin.
Feeling sorry for Violet, Kjell invites her to join them on a journey to get Austin's ex-con brother, Dallas. Along the way, Violet's new friends help her cultivate her talents, and as an old woman she looks back on a life well-lived.
MPR's Karl Gehrke talked with Landvik about her new book. To listen to the interview, choose the audio link in the right column.