"Beginner's Luck" is a story of belonging, and the love and courage it can instill within the human heart. And paradoxically, the freedom and feeling of independence that a sense of belonging kindles in a soul that is hungry for life in all its glories and disappointments.

Hallie Palmer is a spirited 16-year-old girl in a midwestern town who is suffocating in her Christian home and bored by her high school classes. To add spark to her life she plays hooky, bets at the nearby horseracing track and cons a place for herself at the local Good Old Boys poker game. And though she doesn't have much luck with the ponies, Hallie does possess a quick mind for probability theory that translates into a God-given gift for winning at cards. Armed with this blessing it is her desire to go to Las Vegas and seek her fortune.

However fate intervenes in the form of "Madame Horsefly" in the 11th race and Hallie suddenly finds herself working as a "yard person" to earn back enough money to stake herself at the gaming tables in Nevada. The household where she temporarily takes up residence is completely unlike her traditional home and family. Olivia Stockton, the matriarch, is a modern day "Auntie Mame," either pushing or pulling sixty, depending on who you believe. Olivia takes Hallie in hand and introduces her to a world far from their small town, that of the mind, and also of passion -- from Shakespeare, Shelley and Modigliani, to silk negligees, fortune telling and herbal teas with mysterious healing properties.

As Olivia undertakes Hallie's education, her son Bernard, in Henry Higgins/Pygmalion fashion, exults at the prospect of molding the truant tomboy into a lady. He therefore oversees the areas where his mother is sorely lacking -- home decorating, distinguishing rosemary from rutabagas, and designing an exquisite dress for the prom. And of course in return Hallie teaches Bernard how to play a mean game of poker.

"Beginner's Luck" is in many ways an old-fashioned novel, propelled by such small mysteries as "Why won't Hallie go to school? Did someone abuse or bully her there?" "Who stole the money for the charity golf tournament?" "Will Olivia take a lover while her husband is still alive though ailing?" and "Is it possible that Olivia's a witch?"



"Laura Pedersen delivers…If this book hasn't been made into a screenplay already, it should be soon. Throughout, you can't help but think how hilarious some of the scenes would play on the big screen."
-The Hartford Courant


"Funny, sweet-natured, and well-crafted…Pedersen has created a wonderful assemblage of…whimsical characters and charm."
-Kirkus Reviews


"This novel is funny and just quirky enough to become a word-of-mouth favorite….Pedersen has a knack for capturing tart teenage observations in witty asides, and Hallie's naivete, combined with her gambling and numbers savvy, make her a winning protagonist."
-Publishers Weekly


"A breezy coming-of-age novel with an appealing cast of characters."
-Booklist


"A fresh and funny look at not fitting in."
-Seventeen