Radical Hag by Lorna Landvik

“Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes)” by Lorna Landvik
c.2019, University of Minnesota Press
$25.95 / higher in Canada
306 pages   

They say you can’t take it with you.

The money you’ve amassed, the property you own, jewelry, art, and fancy cars won’t mean a thing once you’re dead and gone. No, you can’t take it with you, but in the new novel Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes)” by Lorna Landvik, what’s been left behind?

If you asked Haze Evans how old she felt, she’d probably never say the truth (81), but not because of vanity. No, despite creaky knees and her status as the oldest employee at the Granite Creek Gazette, she preferred to focus on staying active, curious, and productive by writing a feature column several days a week.

Or, well, she used to.

On her way home from a show at Minnesota’s Lakeside Playhouse, Haze collapsed in the car and was taken directly to the hospital. Her prognosis was iffy.

Susan McGrath would’ve cried, if she let herself. Haze had been at the paper since Susan’s grandfather hired her decades ago, and Susan counted Haze as a dear friend. It was unthinkable that after 50 years of columns, the Gazette wouldn’t print Haze’s wise words – but then Susan remembered that Haze kept a file of all her printed work, along with comments she’d received.

While Haze healed, why not reprint her old columns?

For 14-year-old Sam McGrath, the only thing worse than working for his Dad was working for his Mom. It didn’t help that was also caught in the middle of their impending divorce. Plus, he was a geek. Plus, he had a crush on a girl who would never look twice at him. Even if he had a driver’s license. Which he didn’t.

But he did have a job, and that was to go through Haze Evan’s old columns, helping to decide which ones to reprint in the Gazette. He hadn’t known Haze well, but he learned a lot about her from her writing. He learned a lot about the people in his small town, too. And he learned a secret that would change everything…

Words, as you know, have power. They can influence, impact, inspire, and incite, and in “Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes),” they come from a character that never speaks one word throughout.

No, author Lorna Landvik’s Haze is mute and ailing from page 5 forward, but that only makes her presence stronger and it imbues extra meaning to her columns and her diary, both of which, together, make up about half the book. The other half consists of a delightful unfolding of gentle drama, Mom humor, current events, politics, twists, and surprises revealed at a pleasant pace and wrapped in a love story to close neighbors and small towns, where people might gossip but the truth is better.

Your book club wants this book. Put it by your easy chair, bedside, lunch box, or tuck it in the car. Find it in the library or the bookstore because “Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes)” is a book you’ll want to take with you.

When Terri Schlichenmeyer was three years old, her long-suffering mother taught Terri to read – mostly to get her out of Mom's hair – and the book most likely to be read was “Mumpsy Goes to Kindergarten.”...