Welcome to the Great Mysterious: A Novel by Lorna LandvikWelcome to the Great Mysterious: A Novel by Lorna Landvik

Welcome to the Great Mysterious: A Novel

byLorna Landvik

Paperback | January 2, 2002

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Megastar of stage, screen, and television, Geneva Jordan now has a command performance in Minnesota, where she agrees to look after her thirteen-year-old nephew, a boy with Down’s syndrome, while his parents take a long-overdue vacation. Though Geneva and her sister, Ann, are as different as night and day (“I being night, of course, dark and dramatic”), Geneva remembers she had a family before she had a star on her door. But so accustomed is she to playing the lead, finding herself a supporting actress in someone else’s life is strange and unexplored territory. Then the discovery of an old scrapbook that she and her sister created long ago starts her thinking of things beyond fame. For The Great Mysterious is a collection of thoughts and feelings dedicated to answering life’s big questions—far outside the spotlight’s glow. . . .
Lorna Landvik is the author of the bestselling novels Patty Jane's House of Curl, Your Oasis on Flame Lake, and The Tall Pine Polka. She is also an actor, playwright, and proud hockey mom.
Title:Welcome to the Great Mysterious: A NovelFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:368 pages, 8 × 5 × 1 inShipping dimensions:8 × 5 × 1 inPublished:January 2, 2002Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345442741

ISBN - 13:9780345442741


Rated 5 out of 5 by from As the parent of a child with Down Syndrome... 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with the usual misgivings that Rich, the central character who has Down Syndrome, might be cast in a stereotypical, outdated manner.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.
Date published: 2004-06-10

Read from the Book

All right, so I'm a diva. There are worse things--amass murderer, a bigot, a telephone solicitor.I'm surprised my sister even uses the word as aninsult. Why should I be offended by the truth? Mydictionary defines diva as "a distinguished female singer." I certainlyam that.The word, however, is cross-referenced with primadonna, defined as "a temperamental person; a person who takesadulation and privileged treatment as a right and reacts with petulanceto criticism or inconvenience."Well, I might ask, who likes criticism or inconvenience? Andwhy shouldn't one take privileged treatment as a right? A littleself-esteem is not a bad thing. Ann, for instance, could use a seriousinfusion of it.Throughout my life I have heard the question, "Are you reallytwins?" It's an understandable query; Ann and I are as different asthe proverbial night and day. Ann once elaborated on that analogyin an interview, describing me as being night--dark and dramatic,living among stars--and herself as light and plain andabout as exciting as an afternoon nap.We're fraternal twins, obviously, and don't share that spooky,ESPy you're-my-other-half thing identical twins do. Ann and Iare more like sisters who could have been born years apart ifMom hadn't been such an industrious egg layer.We're very closeand have shared everything from chicken pox to clothes to deepsecrets, but when I look at Ann face-to-face, I don't see my mirrorimage. In fact, if I looked at Ann right now, what I'd see is abig pest.For those of you who don't know me (where the hell have youbeen living, in a cave with no TV or cable access?) I am GenevaJordan, star of stage, screen (unfortunately, my theatrical schedulehasn't allowed me to do hardly any of the movies I've been offered),and television (if you didn't see me accept my Tony award,I'm sure you've heard my voice singing the Aromati-Cat cat litterand Chef Mustachio Frozen Pizza jingles). Recently I just ended ayear and a half's run in the title role of Mona!, a musical aboutDaVinci's mysterious model.She's a gal with a crazy half smile, she's Mona Lisa!Oh,what I wouldn't do to get a piece a . . . that Mona Lisa!You'll have to trust me that the music is so catchy, the lyrics actuallywork.My role as Mona Lisa brought me my second Tony, a cover storyin New York magazine, and a relationship with Trevor Waite, mycostar. My role as Mona Lisa and its resulting dividends, especiallymy relationship with Trevor Waite, is also what brought me closeto mental and physical collapse. Which made my sister's requestall the more preposterous."Please," she begged over the phone, changing her tack frominsulter to supplicant. "Riley and I need this time together.""I'm not arguing that, Ann. It's where I come in as baby-sitterthat I'm objecting to.""You're Rich's godmother.""I'm aware of that, Ann. But godmother does not mean rescuer.""Then what does it mean?"I looked at my watch. I didn't have to be anywhere for anotherhour, but she didn't have to know that. "I have to run, Ann. I'vegot a hair appointment.""What does it mean?""Listen, Ann, I don't--""Quit calling me Ann.""That's your name, isn't it?""Yes, but whenever you're in one of your I'm-right-and-you're-wrong modes, you overuse my name. Like a cranky oldschoolmarm or something.""First I'm a diva and now I'm a cranky old schoolmarm. Nicetalking to you too, Ann."I could hear her protests as I hung--okay, slammed--the receiverback in its cradle.She called back immediately, not grasping the concept of a dramaticexit. I let my machine pick it up."Geneva," she said, "please. I'm sorry. I don't know where elseto turn. Please pick up....Please help me, Dee."Oh, that was low. Dee was a reference to the childhood nicknamesbestowed on us by our Grandma Hjordis."It's Tweedledee and Tweedledum!" she used to say in her Norwegianaccent, "my favorite twin grandchildren in the world!"We were her only twin grandchildren, but she made us feel thatwe couldn't have been surpassed by quintuplets.She lived next door to us, and her home was a cinnamon-roll-smellinghaven for my sister and me, a place where she playedendless games of Hangman and War with us and let us upend allher furniture cushions to make elaborate igloos (when we playedRoald Amundsen discovering the South Pole) or wigwams (whenwe played Leif Eriksson discovering America). She had a canoe inthe backyard that we'd pretend was the Kon-Tiki.Grandma Hjordis was a Norwegian nationalist to the core andnever let an opportunity pass to indoctrinate her granddaughtersin the robust history of her homeland and its explorers."Try not to be afraid of new things," she advised. "The world ismore fun if you're not a scaredy-cat."When she died suddenly, breaking our fourteen-year-old hearts,we buried her nicknames for us with her, and only brought themout in moments of crisis.I picked up the phone."All right," I said, my voice a concentrate of exasperation. "Youhave a one-minute extension. Don't think I'm saying yes. I'm justsaying I'll listen to you--for one more minute.""Okay," said Ann eagerly, like a game show contestant headingfor the bonus round. She took a deep breath. "You know how hardRiley works--my gosh, you don't get to be chair of the Englishdepartment without working hard--""You're not telling me anything new, Ann.""Your interruptions don't cut into my time, do they?"I sighed. "Get to the point,Ann.""Okay, okay. Anyway, this is a chance for us to be together--alone--for the first time since Rich was born, Geneva. Thirteenyears! And in Italy, Geneva--Italy!"I sighed again. "Can't Mom fly up?""You know her hip is still bothering her. And how can she leaveDad?"After a lifetime of good health, our parents, now living in a retirementcommunity in Arizona, had finally drawn the sorry-you-losecards. Mom had had hip-replacement surgery the previoussummer, and Dad was recuperating from a mild stroke that affectedhis balance and sometimes his memory. These old-age infirmitieswere certainly no fun for them. Still, didn't they realizetheir problems were a big inconvenience for the rest of us? (Don'tsic AARP on me--I'm just joking.)"All right, all right.""You mean all right as in you'll do it?"I laughed--inappropriately, I suppose. "God, no. I meant allright as in don't talk anymore.""My minute's up?" Sometimes my sister is far too literal for herown good."Ann, I'll get back to you by the weekend, okay?""With an answer?""No, with an Ole and Lena joke."Ann ignored my sarcasm."Thanks, Geneva.""I haven't said yes yet," I reminded her."I know, but thanks anyway."I hung up quickly; her gratitude actually seemed to have heat,and my ear burned from it.I grabbed my cashmere coat--one of the presents Trevor hadgiven me that he hadn't repossessed.When we had broken up, Ithrew my engagement ring at him, never thinking for a minutethat the tightwad wouldn't give it back.I guess he wasn't really cheap--he did spend a lot of money onme--but he often tainted the gift-giving experience by telling mewhat wildly expensive thing he was going to get me before presentingme with a less expensive substitute that somehow "said Genevalouder." Cashmere said Geneva louder than mink.A picnic in CentralPark said Geneva louder than lunch at the Four Seasons. Oncewe were browsing through a rare-book store, and the first editionof Marjorie Morningstar said Geneva louder than the first edition ofThe Great Gatsby."You're so much more Marjorie than Daisy," he had said, takingout his credit card to pay for the book, which conveniently happenedto be about three hundred dollars less than the one Iwanted. I suppose I sound ungrateful, but really, it hurt my feelingsthat everything that said Geneva was second-best.Outside the air was brisk and everyone was moving in the usualout-of-my-way-or-I'll-trample-you pace I love so well. Autumnin New York--my favorite time of year in the city. You can seewhy they wrote a song about it. On that day it was as if all of Manhattanwas still in the back-to-school state of mind that had begunin September, busy and energized and full of big plans and biggerideas. A person's senses were cranked up: colors seemed sharper,noises louder, and smells from hot dog and pretzel vendors' cartspositively aromatic. And yet in the midst of all this a slight melancholiaseemed to filter through the city skies, making everythingseem . . . I don't know, somehow tender.A fan stopped me outside of Tiffany's."Geneva Jordan!" she said in that surprised tone that made mefeel I was less a human than an apparition.I fluttered my fingers in a wave, hoping that was enough for her.It wasn't."Will you sign my--" She looked at her armload of packagesfor something to write on. "My Tiffany's bag?""Only if I can keep what's inside."She looked stricken for a moment, until I reassured her I wasonly joking.I always have pens in my coat pockets; it speeds up the process.She handed me the bag, and for a minute I thought about runningoff with it and giving her a really good scare, but instead I politelyasked her name."Beth," she said. "I read about you leaving Mona!, which, by theway, I loved you in. Not as much as I loved you in Sunny Skies orThe Wench of Wellsmore, but still, those scenes between you andTrevor Waite--""How kind of you to say so," I said, capping my pen and givingher back her Tiffany's bag. "Now I must run--nice talking to you!"I raced off as quickly as I could on my three-inch-heel boots.These fans will stand around and yak all day if you let them, tellingyou what they've liked about your career and what they haven't--as if you've been waiting all your professional life for their critique.Don't get me wrong--I'm not above my fans. I just likethem a whole lot better when they stick to flattery."Miss Jordan!" said Wendy the receptionist, as if I'd caught herdoing something she shouldn't have been doing. "We didn't expectyou until two-thirty!""I had to get out of the house," I said, draping my coat over thefaux leopard couch. "Can Benny take me early?""Of course I can, darling," said Benny, picking up his cue farbetter than some actors I've worked with.He rushed over to me, giving me a big smooch on the lips. "Ijust kicked Claudette Pehl out of my chair. I told her, 'Darling, Idon't care if your hair's still wet--I've got more important clientsto attend to.' ""Sure you did, Benny," I said. Claudette Pehl was only the fashionmodel of the moment, all seventeen years and sixty-eightpounds of her."Coffee?" he asked, taking me by the hand and leading me intothe salon, "with a dash of Bailey's?""A big dash."Lou Reed was blasting through the salon's sound system--at Hair by Benny, nothing was done in baby steps. Each chairwas upholstered in some faux jungle animal skin and most oftenoccupied by somebody recognizable. Polly York, the PBS newscommentator, was getting foiled in Martin's chair, and over inAndre's, Gina Bell, the ice skater, was getting one of her signaturepixie cuts.After I changed into a cotton smock printed with tiger stripes(every smock matches its chair; kitschy, but what the hell, thatwas part of the fun of Benny's) and got shampooed by one of thosesullen girls whose mental health you can't help but worry about, Isat down in Benny's chair."Looking at you, the word rough comes to mind," he said, handingme a mug that smelled more of booze than coffee."Oh, Benny, don't mince words with me." I took a sip of the enhancedcoffee and made a face. "I said a dash, not half a bottle."Instead of making apologies and scurrying back to the coffeemachine, Benny flicked the end of his comb against my shoulderblade."Shut up and drink it," he said. "You know you could use it."I could and I did."Ahh," I said after chugging it down."Things are looking betteralready."I knew I was. Benny wasn't one of the top hair stylists in Manhattanby chance; he knew how to cut hair and, most important,how to make his clients look good while he did.The lighting waswarm and mellow, fading out lines and wrinkles and large poresand everything else that conspired to make you look like thewicked stepmother when you still felt like Cinderella.I looked great . . . for forty-eight. I could easily pass for forty,which I had been doing until my sister was interviewed by a featurewriter for The New York Times and blabbed our real age--as ifshe hadn't been schooled enough on this particular topic. Still,looking forty isn't exactly a plus in show business, although it iseasier to age in the theater than it is in the movies, where theystart casting you as the mother in Little Women when you feel you'dbe perfect for Jo.I do have a lovely nose (my own, thank you very much), prettyteeth (mostly my own), and good hair (the natural waves aremine, the Red Flame color--Benny's marvelous idea and for tenyears my signature--is not), but I'm called gorgeous primarilybecause I'm a star.It's not undue humility (in my case, all humility would be undue)that makes me say that; I turn heads, first and foremost, becauseof who I am and not what I look like."Benny, what do you think about short hair?"We both watched in the mirror as he held out a rippled strandof my hair."Not for you, darling.Your hair is so dramatic . . . so free. You'dlook like a computer saleswoman with short hair. Or a drillsergeant."I laughed. Benny was one of the few people who wasn't afraidto tell me what he really thought."All right, then. Just take off the split ends."As Benny snipped and sniped in his jungle lair (his gossip wasalmost as good as his styling), I closed my eyes and tried to thinkof more excuses why I couldn't possibly help my sister out.As they say, timing is everything, and this timing was bad. I hadn'tleft Mona! just for the fun of it. I wasn't burned out on the show yet;what had made me not renew my contract was a doublehitter--heartbreak and menopause, neither of which I'd admit to the worldat large. My press release merely mentioned my gratitude for beingwith such a fine production and my wish to explore other creativeavenues.What I really needed time for was to practice my three R's--relax, replenish, and rassle my screaming hormones to the floor. Iwanted to putter around the city, have late-afternoon teas at theCarlyle or the Pierre, see the shows I hadn't been able to see becauseof my own, and spend my free weekends at the variouscountry homes friends had invited me to. I needed time to spoilmyself rotten."Earth to Geneva," whispered Benny in my ear.I opened my eyes, startled."Sorry I was boring you," he said with exaggerated nonchalance."Believe me, there are plenty of women who'd pay to sitwhere you are and listen to me."I laughed. "I do pay you, Benny, remember?"Benny shrugged and with his fingers fanned out my hair. It waslong and wavy--"hippie hair with an uptown attitude," as Bennydescribed it. (I follow the Dick Clark secret of youth--neverchange your hairstyle.)"So how does it feel to be an out-of-work actor?"Tears welled up in my eyes."Geneva, darling! I didn't mean anything by that--I was onlytrying to be funny.""It's not that," I said, waving my hand. "It's my sister."In the mirror, I saw concern pinch the features of Benny'sround face."She's not ill, is she?"I shook my head. "Nothing like that. She and her husband havethis opportunity through the college to go to Italy.""Hmm," said Benny, checking to see if my ends were even. "Iguess I'm not quite grasping the dilemma.""They want me to baby-sit!" I said, and seeing the ice skaterlook over at me with interest, I lowered my voice. "They've gota thirteen-year-old son they don't want to take out of school.Richard--Rich, that's his name. My godson."Benny poured something delicious-smelling onto his hands andmassaged it into my scalp. "And you don't want to baby-sit thisRich because ...?""Because I'm on vacation!" I said, and again my raised voicemade the snoopy skater with her stupid pixie cut look over. "Becausemy doctor says I'm overstressed and overworked and I needto take it easy!" I whispered. "And besides, I need to get over . . .things.""That cad," said Benny. It was his Pavlovian response; wheneverI mentioned anything that might directly or indirectly have to dowith Trevor, he said, "That cad." It was for this sort of thing that Itipped him so well."But doesn't your sister live on a pond or something inIndianapolis?""A lake," I said. "She lives on a lake outside Minneapolis."Benny shrugged; to the transplanted Australian, it was allthe same."But mightn't that be peaceful?" he suggested. "Sitting by thelake out in the middle of nowhere?""The lake'll probably be frozen," I said. "And even if it isn't, I'dbe sitting with a thirteen-year-old.""Right, the kid. He's that bad, huh?"My tears, which seemed to be on double overtime, welled upagain."Oh, Benny!" I said, and then, in a move far more fluid than anydouble axel Gina Bell ever performed, I swiveled my chair, shieldingmyself and my tears from the prying eyes of that nosy little icenymph.

Bookclub Guide

1. Geneva initially has no intention of traveling to Minnesota to take care of Rich. Why does she change her mind? 2.What do you think would have happened to Geneva if she had decided not to help her sister's family? 3.What has Geneva gained and lost as a result of her successful, high-powered career? 4.As a celebrity, Geneva is fodder for the gossip columns and she is not happy about it. Do you think her complaints are valid? Or is the intrusiveness of the media part of the price of fame and fortune? 5. Geneva's failed first marriage really wounded her. Why does she finally decide to try again? 6. Geneva thinks that Trevor seems relieved by her rejection. Do you think this is really the case? Do you think Trevor could have changed? 7. Has Geneva made the right choice picking the boy in homeroom who would help you with your homework? Do you think the marriage will work? 8. Geneva remembers Conrad as a boy who knew "when it paid to be careful and when it paid not to." How do you distinguish between justifiable fears and those that hold you back and do more harm than good? 9. Geneva and James have both been paralyzed by their fears in some ways. Do you have a fear that you feel has had a detrimental effect on your life? 10. Do you think Rich is aware of Geneva's ambivalent feelings about him? If he is, why do you think he gives her a chance anyway? 11. Rich and Conrad's conditions can make those around them uncomfortable, particularly strangers. Discuss why people can feel so uneasy around those with special needs. 12. Rich and Conrad spend a great deal of time with peers who are not classified as special education.What are the benefits and/or drawbacks of such a setup? 13. Everyone is concerned with how Rich is going to deal with his grief. How do you think he is going to handle it? Were his family and friends right to be concerned? 14.What do you think will happen to Barb and George's marriage? Do you think it can survive their loss? 15.Why did James decide to leave his corporate job and become a mailman? Do you think he has had a nervous breakdown as his ex-wife and parents believe? 16. James and his fellow hockey coach take very different approaches to coaching their players.With which approach do you agree? What should be the mission of youth sports? 17. James says, "faith isn't knowing, it's believing." Discuss the meaning of faith in all its forms. 18.What would your answers be to the "big" questions posed in "The Great Mysterious"? What is true love? What is the meaning of life? What makes you happy? 19.Think of a question you would pose in the "Great Mysterious." 20. Do you have a favorite character or characters in this novel? 21. If you had to give a name to one of your emotions, which would it be and what would you name it? 22.The author mentions that she often attends book clubs. Has your group ever invited an author to attend? If not, is this something you would consider doing? 23. If you had the opportunity to ask the author a question about this novel, what would it be? 24.Why did your group decide to read this book? Are you happy with your choice? 25.What is your group reading next?

Editorial Reviews

“[A] sweet, funny story . . . as good as Patty Jane’s House of Curl.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune“[A] CHARMING AND SUCCESSFUL NOVEL . . . SERVED UP WITH GRACE AND GOODNESS.”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune“FUNNY, HEARTWARMING . . . Admirably captures the ups and downs of a small town from the humorous perspective of a big-city star.”—Publishers Weekly“GENEVA IS A LOVABLE STAR WHO GROWS IN SURPRISING WAYS.”—Orlando Sentinel“Characters. And character. That’s what Landvik writes best. Humor and humanity are the two elements that run through all of Lorna Landvik’s novels.”—The Gazette (Colorado Springs)“[A] winning tale.”—Kirkus Reviews