Oh My Stars

Written by Lorna Landvik
Review by Wendy Zollo

The time is the Depression. Violet Mathers is eighteen years old, creatively accomplished yet a cacophony of ugliness: the product of an absent mother and a cruel father, the casualty of a factory accident that robs her of her talents and sets her on a suicide mission to the Golden Gate Bridge. As chance (or fate, luck, or doom?) would have it, the bus on which she travels crashes in a small North Dakota town. Here, Violet meets the men who will change her life, musicians Kjel Hedstrom and his “black as night” friend Austin Skyes. In love with Kjel, repulsed by Austin and eventually annoyed by Dallas (Austin’s ex-con brother), Violet joins the threesome as they travel across America on a tuneful, almost Elvis-like adventure of self-discovery and social issues.

The self-discovery is nicely done. It’s quite easy to become drawn into Violet’s world, thanks to Landvik’s brilliant humor and empathy. The quartet of characters, though not deep, is fun, pleasing, and easy to care about. Landvik ultimately loses her reality when dealing with the social issues of a distinctly black/white 1930s America. They are never fully addressed or even worse, developed into the sticky situations and considerable quandaries they were. An encounter with the KKK is dealt with in four pages, with no ensuing aftermath or logical social ramifications for the times. I sensed as if the author was floating through the period, apprehensive about taking on racial matters and losing the cloudy, lighthearted atmosphere she had created.

Oh My Stars is a pleasurable read; nonetheless, historically it lacks a significant punch to give it the real impact it could so easily have had.