Author: Amy Bloom
Format: Hardcover, 250 pages
Publisher: Random House
Pub Date: July 29, 2014
Summary from the Publisher:
“My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us.”
So begins this remarkable novel by Amy Bloom, whose critically acclaimed Away was called “a literary triumph” (The New York Times). Lucky Us is a brilliantly written, deeply moving, fantastically funny novel of love, heartbreak, and luck.
Disappointed by their families, Iris, the hopeful star and Eva the sidekick, journey through 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris’s ambitions take the pair across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, and to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island.
With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine though a landscape of big dreams, scandals, betrayals, and war. Filled with gorgeous writing, memorable characters, and surprising events, Lucky Us is a thrilling and resonant novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, the creation of a family, and the pleasures and inevitable perils of family life, conventional and otherwise. From Brooklyn’s beauty parlors to London’s West End, a group of unforgettable people love, lie, cheat and survive in this story of our fragile, absurd, heroic species.
– From Chapters-Indigo website
Book Review by Zara from The Bibliotaphe Closet:
Lucky Us by Amy Bloom is a modern telling of two very different sisters from the 1940’s who must reconcile their fate with each other and the consequential hardships they encounter right from childhood into their adulthood.
It is the story of Eva Logan-Acton and her half-sister, Iris. The two who are thrown together at the loss of both their mothers, one through death, the other through abandonment, left open to the neglect and betrayal of their biological father, Edgar.
Not only is there a dichotomy between the two sisters in look, but also in temperament, the two in their personal failings, somehow find ways to survive poverty, manipulation, and loss.
Though the plot lends itself to the absurd, it’s the characters’ dilemmas and persevering spirit that makes this book at the very least an entertaining read. Is it realistic? No, not really, but it is possible and lures the reader into turning each page with interest.
The heart of the novel is wound in the realism of its characters’—especially the main characters’ personalities. Iris, the drama queen is both self-indulgent as she is tough-skinned, a survivor, and an emotional manipulator, but would be lost without her grounded sister, Eva, to anchor her down emotionally throughout the book.
Eva, self-sacrificial to the point of semi-martyrdom, while formally uneducated, finds ways in which she can survive the drama of her sister, the inconsistency and eventual illness of her father, and the short- term charity of her friend, Francisco’s sisters in the beauty salon where she dutifully sweeps floors and washes sinks. She teaches herself how to read, memorizes her father’s Little Blue Books for abridged versions of knowledge and sometimes useful or non-useful facts, and learns not only how to read Tarot cards, but how to best advise customers with news that encourages them and encourages them to return to the salon for her most-often positive advice.
But Iris and Eva are not the only characters in the novel with unique personalities and circumstances. There is Edgar, whose love for Clara, a jazz singer and closeted albino who cannot redeem him from the mistakes he’s committed in the past, nor the disease he must face in the near future; Francisco, a gay makeup artist and friend-turned-father-figure; Reenie, Iris’ focus of love and borderline obsession; Gus, the ousted husband whose relation to Reenie places him in an unbelievable and life-threatening circumstance; and Danny, the stolen orphan made to seduce and fulfill a gap in a grieving woman’s life.
Together the story unfolds into a highly unlikely plot that still seduces the reader enough to not only continue reading, but also empathize with the characters and their sentimental failings. Somehow the absurdity of the plot doesn’t deter the individuals from eventually finding some form of love and solace, and even a self-imposed, redefinition of family.
Lucky Us feels like a somewhat sarcastic title, but is able to self-prophesy on the story’s behalf by the time the novel ends. I’m just not quite sure who the title is referring to exactly—the characters themselves or the readers who get to witness a highly tumultuous story unravel itself into some form of success or the readers who are lucky enough not to suffer the same type of consequences as the characters that find redemption in their own answers?
Amy Bloom does a good job of creating interesting enough characters that will urge its readers to turn the page and come away from the story with more than an afterthought, but a sense that the injustices of the world still have a purpose even if they insist on sometimes remaining unclear.
A special thanks to Random House of Canada for providing me with a copy of Lucky Us in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author:
Amy Bloom is the author of Come to Me, a National Book Award finalist; A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You, nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Love Invents Us; Normal; Away, a New York Times bestseller; and Where the God of Love Hangs Out. Her stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize Short Stories, The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction, and many other anthologies here and abroad. She has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, Slate, and Salon, among other publications, and has won a National Magazine Award. She teaches creative writing at Wesleyan University.
What do you think is the best thing about having a sister? What do you think is the worst?
How far would you go on getting what you want? Lies? Murder?
What is your definition of family?