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Welcome to the Great Mysterious (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – January 2, 2002

4.2 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From the popular author of Patty Jane's House of Curl and The Tall Pine Polka comes a funny, heartwarming novel in which the voice of the self-absorbed Broadway diva Geneva Jordan holds ingratiating charm. It's not Geneva's singing voice that's the magic here, however, but her plainspoken storytelling. At age 48, Geneva is called upon by her twin sister, Ann, to come to her hometown of Deep Lake, Minn., and baby-sit Rich, Ann's 13-year-old son, afflicted with Down's Syndrome. Ann and her husband, Riley, desperately need a vacation, the first one since Rich's birth, so Geneva reluctantly agrees to leave her glamorous life in New York City to care for her nephew for a month. Geneva slips into the role of parental figure with a few minor snags, and she and Rich bond over a box of old toys, where Geneva uncovers a scrapbook she and Ann made as children. Titled The Great Mysterious, the book asks such existential questions as "What is true love?" and "What is the meaning of life?" to which each family member wrote an answer. This diversion motivates Geneva's metamorphosis. Reading the words of her grandmother and parents, she begins to feel the ache of having given up family for her career. Still reeling from a "doublehitterA-heartbreak and menopause" (she had broken up with her Broadway co-star), Geneva forges a special friendship with James, Deep Lake's wise mailman. She does, however, return to New York, where she considers marriage proposals until tragedy strikes a dear friend, forcing her yet again to reevaluate what's important in life. While the plot extends few surprises, Landvik's unpretentious story admirably captures the ups and downs of a small town from the humorous perspective of a big-city star. Agent, Betsy Nolan. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Although she's a Broadway star, self-centered Geneva Jordan has butterflies in her stomach when she (grudgingly) travels to Minnesota to take care of her 13-year-old nephew, Rich, who has Down's syndrome, while her sister and brother-in-law take a month-long vacation in Italy. In addition to being inherently selfish, Geneva is also coping with fast-approaching menopause and a devastating breakup with her costar, Trevor. But staying with Rich proves surprisingly rewarding, especially after they discover a scrapbook Geneva and her sister put together as children, which forces her to confront life, death, and happiness. Of course, it doesn't hurt that she meets James, a concert pianist with a bad case of stage fright (now working as a mailman, much to the shame of his ex-wife). When Geneva returns to New York and her old life, Trevor's reappearance (with an enormous diamond ring) forces her to choose between the two men. It's a no-brainer, yet Landvik's fourth novel is sadly predictable and flat, completely lacking the vigor, delightful characters, and goofy plot that endeared readers (including this reviewer) to her third novel, The Tall Pine Polka (LJ 7/99). Purchase only to meet demand.
-DNancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (January 2, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345442741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345442741
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,047,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


Lorna Landvik is the author of ten novels, including the best-selling PATTY JANE'S HOUSE OF CURL, ANGRY HOUSEWIVES EATING BON BONS, OH MY STARS and the recently published BEST TO LAUGH.
Landvik's checkered (but legal) past includes working as a chambermaid in Bavaria, winning a trip to Tahiti as a contestant on '$25,000 Pyramid' (MacGyver was her partner), temping at the Playboy Mansion (it was strictly a clerical position) and walking across the country as a member of The Great Peace March.
She has acted in many theatrical productions, including a half dozen shows she conveniently wrote for herself. Her all-improvised show, PARTY IN THE REC ROOM is a local legend, due in no small part to the margaritas she mixes up onstage.
She is currently working on two novels, one of which is a sequel to her first book. She has one husband and two daughters and lives in the beautiful blue and green state of Minnesota.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This isn't "Patty Jane's House of Curl" or "Tall Pine Polka" but it is an ejoyable read. It was the books premise which made me want to read "The Great Mysterious." A very popular, very busy diva on Broadway is reaching middle age, approaching menopause, and recently having been dumped by her boyfriend who has decided he needs a younger woman on his arm, is asked by her sister to babysit for her nephew who has Down Syndrome in a small town in Minnesota. She decides this might be just the thing for her at a time when she feels the need to "get away" and to slow down. Along the way, she finds out what is really important in life with the help of an old notebook she finds......The Great Mysterious. Somewhat predictable, a bit of a romance novel feel to it, but well worth it.
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Format: Paperback
I liked this book. I've been on a quest to read fiction related to Down Syndrome and have found a wide range of books, some of which I liked, others that I did not.
Geneva is the main character who (unwillingly) takes on the role of caregiver for 13 y.o nephew Rich, when his parents take a month long trip. As the parent of a child with Down Syndrome, I started the book with the usual misgivings that Rich, the central character who has Down Syndrome, might be cast in a stereotypical, outdated manner. However, I'm pleased to say that the author has obviously done her research and was able to capture the character of Rich in way that was not only accurate and appropriate, but warm, compassionate, realistic, with all the subtle nuances that make up an individual. For Rich is truly an indivudual, and much more than the Down Syndrome which defines him in Geneva's eyes before she gets to know him.
I thought the author also handled Geneva's self-doubt and mental struggles with how she felt about Rich in a sensitive and realistic manner. While some of these questions were not "pretty" and forced Geneva to delve in to some parts of her personality that were not so attractive, I truly believe that these things need to be talked about...it's only by recognizing that we are all human and all have a need to grow and learn that we can actually do so.
I recommend this book to any adult looking for a good summer read. And don't be afraid to ask yourself some of the hard questions that Geneva asked herself - the world will be a better place if everyone did so.
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By A Customer on September 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The thing about Lorna Landvik's writing, is that it's not necessarily GREAT literature... but when I read it, I get done and think, that's just what I needed. Her characters become like friends, and the sometimes soap operatic plots are like the soap operas of everyday life. Welcome to the Great Mysterious has this great friendship at its core.... Conrad and Rich's. Their simple love of each other is enviable. It's what holds this book together. Landvik writes about the great mysteries of life - love, death, friendship, family, snow on Halloween... that make me look at my life a tiny bit differently...With a little more awe at all that is there.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the fourth book I've read by Lorna Landvik, and I must say that it is my favorite so far! I absolutely loved the storyline. I've never read so much in one day in my entire life! I highly recommend this book with two very enthusiastic thumbs up.
Welcome to the Great Mysterious tells the story of Tony-winning Broadway actress, Geneva Jordan, and her escape from her life. After getting dumped by her co-star and boyfriend, Trevor, Geneva quits her run as Mona Lisa in the Broadway play, Mona, in order to nurse her wounds (and a severe case of menopause!) in peace. However, Geneva's sister, Ann, has other ideas for her vacation -- after 13 years of being a full-time mother to Rich, Ann is finally going to take a month-long vacation with her husband, Riley, and needs Geneva to baby-sit. Which wouldn't be such a bad idea except for the fact that Geneva doesn't know how to baby-sit....
Rich, who has Down's Syndrome, proves to be a beautiful and heartwarming character. I loved the interaction between him and Geneva. Rich has a heart of gold and is funny and sweet and a pleasure to read about. He really stole the whole show for me. Throughout the month, Geneva learns a lot about herself and what is really important, and I loved every second of it! The best so far... I can't wait for more.
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Format: Hardcover
I absolutely loved "Patty Jane's House of Curl" and "Your Oasis on Flame Lake". But what's happened to Lorna's writing? "The Tall Pine Polka" was like a car accident...you don't want to look, but you feel compelled to. The characters in that book were so unbelievable (only a Minnesotan could come up with a movie title like "Ike and Inga"), I had to finish the book to discover how much more conviluted the story would become. But enough of the Polka.
"Welcome to the Great Mysterious" is a slight improvement. The relationship between Conrad and Rich was wonderful, but I just couldn't see this self-indulgent, self-centered "Toast of Broadway" becoming such fast friends with the woman down the street with the bad perm. I don't want to give the plot away, but unlike "Patty Jane" and "Oasis", the story line is predictable, and, like Lite Beer...less filling, but tastes, uh, okay.
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