Review: Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

lucky-us“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” by The New York Times. Brilliantly written, deeply moving, fantastically funny, Lucky Us introduces us to Eva and Iris. Disappointed by their families, Iris, the hopeful star, and Eva, the sidekick, journey across 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris’s ambitions take them from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island.
With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine through 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. 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.” – Publisher Summary

I’m the type of person who likes to know, at least a little bit, what I can expect when I begin reading a book. Boring old me, I know, but it is what it is. Thus, I depend on book summaries to keep me filled in on what’s coming my way; I am highly annoyed when a novel veers strongly away from its description. Lucky Us by Amy Bloom is one such novel, however, it was a pleasant surprise to read about the unexpected characters and events that arose throughout the book.

It’s 1939. When Eva’s mother abandons her on the porch of her newly widowed father, life as she knew it is changed forever. Initially disgusted by her, Eva’s half-sister Iris eventually takes Eva on as her sidekick. The two form a tentative bond, putting up a front against their inattentive father (except when he wants money – then he searches their rooms for their hiding places). After Iris graduates high school, the two girls hightail it to Hollywood where Iris crashes and burns after trying to build an acting career. Crushed but befriended by an aging makeup artist – and newly reunited with their father – the group heads to New York City, with hopes of a better life there. Throughout all of their travels and experiences, Eva meets and falls in familial love with an expansive cast of characters who pass in and out of her life as the years go by. Will Eva ever find the family she has always longed for? Or will she end up alone, as always, trying to make her own way through the world?

I’ve read a couple of reviews in which the readers mentioned that they felt there wasn’t much of a point to this story. That’s so not true, though! The beauty of this tale is that everywhere Eva goes, she is meeting people to add to her list of those to love or who love her, slowly  but surely creating a family she can one day count on. There’s an anonymous quote that I have always loved, that fits this story like a glove:

“Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are; the ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.”

This is the core of Lucky Us. This is something we should all remember. This is part of the meaning of life.

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom is available at booksellers July 29, 2014.                          Buy it, read it, love it.

3.5 stars

Source: Random House {via NetGalley}

 

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