Monday, July 28, 2014

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

Lucky Us comes out tomorrow and it’s quite simply wonderful.  Lucky readers, you’re in for a treat: Lucky Us is incandescent and eerily beautiful as well as quirky and witty. You know you have a winner when you find a book that grabs you with the opening sentence:

“My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us.” 

With that thought, 11-year-old Eva’s mother abandons her on the doorstep of her absent father’s home where she’s tossed in with her beautiful actress half-sister, 16-year-old Iris, and their negligent father.  The girls run away to California where Iris acts in movies until “ruined” by an affair with a famous actress who abandons her when revealing their love threatens her career. Meanwhile Eva transforms herself like a displaced person to become all that everyone in her upside-down life needs. Taking place from 1939 to 1948, Lucky Us shows how family is much more than genetics especially in war time when resilience is the only thing that really matters. 

In Lucky Us the plot is credible and engaging but it’s the rich characters that will capture you and make you cancel plans to stay in their lives.  A road trip as memorable as that of Thelma and Louise sets the scene for the emerging importance of each character and Eva’s role in each of their lives.  And like the best road trips, the reader isn’t ever entirely sure where it will ultimately end until the last ah-hah.  Shocks and surprises abound and it would be a detriment to readers to reveal any of them. Lucky Us is packed with events that don’t always seem lucky when they occur but the resilient characters still “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Lucky Us also serves up an unexpected bonus in that each chapter is named with a jazz title from the era.  These set the period mood and put the reader in the movie sets, automobiles, and wartime beauty parlors where the novel’s action takes place. Bloom’s website provides links to listen to the chapter openers and going back to reread parts of the novel after listening to the music is like getting extra hot fudge on an already delicious sundae. 

Bloom offers the titles as presents saying “For me, chapter titles, like short story titles, are both gifts to the reader, a little extra, and prisms through which the chapter can be both previewed and reviewed.  If you know the song, you can hear it playing, faintly in your head.  And if you don’t, you haven’t missed out – the words themselves still evoke and invite.  They can’t take that away from me.  Spring will be a little late this year . . .”  
Whether you choose to listen to the music as you read or after, the songs will delight you as would a thirteenth doughnut put in your hand by a kindly baker.

Summing it Up: You’ll feel like you’re sitting at a 1940s soda fountain counter sipping a creamy milkshake surrounded by characters whose adventures you want to join when you read this captivating novel.  But when you climb down from the stool and head home, the characters, the sweetness of redemption, and the brilliant sentences will enter your soul.  

Rating:  5 stars   

Category: Fiction, Gourmet, Pigeon Pie (Historical Fiction), Book Club

Publication date: July 29, 2014

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