I didn’t know anything about Lucky Us (2014) by Amy Bloom when my book club picked it as our next book, but it looked like it wasn’t too long, so I didn’t have any objections. I haven’t read anything by Amy Bloom before, but she comes with some impressive credentials, including nominations for the National Book Award and a short story published in Best American Short Stories.
“My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us.” Eva meets her older half-sister, Iris, on the day her mother drops her off at her father’s house, leaving her suitcase on the front porch and driving away with no goodbye and no explanation. Eva and Iris’s father is only the slightly-more-reliable parent, and when Eva is about twelve years old, she and Iris run away to Hollywood. Eva is smart but also a middle-school drop out, dependent on her sister for everything.
The book follows the two sisters from Hollywood to New York and beyond, through the years surrounding World War II. I don’t want to go into too much detail about what occurs, but each character has their own challenges. What’s perhaps most striking about this book is that there are a number of tragic circumstances that would have suffocated another narrative or other characters. But Bloom’s characters keep moving through their life, grabbing onto opportunities as they pass by and ending up where they would have never imagined.
This book was original and well written. Told through letters and narratives, I can’t say I’ve read another book like it. It stayed interesting throughout and didn’t take me long to read. However, I can’t say that I loved it. I never felt too connected to the characters or the story and I just don’t feel strongly about it. I didn’t dislike it, but I never felt too connected to it either. There are certainly some actions that I remember vividly, but I guess I never really bought the characters as real people. I always felt like I was in a story.
Iris is the most memorable character in the story. And when Iris’s first love betrayed her to safeguard her own Hollywood career, I was shocked and sympathetic. It was the most connected I felt to any character in the book. But then Iris goes on to send an innocent man to an internment camp and kidnap a little boy in the name of love. I can’t relate to that. And then Iris’s love is killed by a random and horrible fire. It kind of makes you wonder if Bloom is throwing a moral in the story: you can try to fix your life with immoral ‘ends justify the means’ machinations, but in the end you have no control over where you end up.
Finally, even though I wasn’t too invested in the outcome, I appreciated the awkwardness of Eva and Gus when they came together in the end. It had been a long time, and there relationship had changed drastically. Bloom’s description was much more realistic than a sweet falling into each other’s arms.
“He had a soft spot for young people. They had no idea what was coming and how much of it was just dumb luck.” (37)
“The greatest struggle in my life is between a dignified silence and having my say.” (200)
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