It’s not hard to like Lorna Landvik’s characters – they’re familiar – like your curmudgeonly uncle, your lovable sister, your best friend, your nosy neighbor – they are funny and sad and flawed. In Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes) Landvik introduces us to Haze Evans whose column has run for over fifty years in the Granite Creek Gazette. Now, the beloved columnist is comatose after suffering a massive stroke. While friends rally to her side to hold her hand and encourage her to continue the good fight, publisher Susan McGrath decides to reprint some of Haze’s early columns, along with responses from her readers. The columns convey intimate moments and historical events all from the perspective of the witty and wonderful Haze, sometimes accompanied by recipes. Through each column, Haze reminds us that there is always a small story within the big story.
In the midst of her own crisis and separated from her husband, Susan McGrath enlists her sullen teenage son, Sam to cull through the thousands of columns and select the most poignant ones for reprint. In the beginning, Sam is sulky and resentful, but as he begins reading – and getting to know Haze through her columns – he discovers that stories can bridge the spaces between people. Sam’s English teacher incorporates the reprinted columns into her journalism curriculum and “Radical Hag Wednesdays” inspire passionate debate among the students and lead them to write pithy columns of their own. Even from her hospital bed it seems that Haze is doing what Haze does best – she’s bringing people together.
Lorna Landvik’s gift is creating quirky characters; they make lots of mistakes and sometimes behave badly, but Landvik slowly spools out the back stories that explain their choices. Balancing some of the more weighty issues — the AIDS epidemic, war, abortion, equal rights, same-sex relationships, and politics — with comic relief (and recipes!) Landvik does what Landvik does best. Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes) will warm your heart (and your kitchen!)