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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Weekly Review: Sunday, April 13, 2014

loteria-1

Oh, Lord, y’all, the Pathologically Literate home has been overrun with tween boys all weekend long. I cannot wait for Monday to get here so I can have some peace and quiet! Don’t get me wrong – I adore these little guys, these little almost-teenagers trying to act so grown and tough but who still let their little boy sides shine through much of the time. All my life I thought I wanted a daughter some day, when all along it turned out I was best suited for a son. I don’t know what I’d do without The Boy – or his sweet little friends, who have become like family to us. I’ve even managed to get a few of them onto the reading track – ha! My ulterior motives are coming to fruition. Love it! Let’s take a look at what I read this week:

Books I read this week:

Book I’m currently reading:

Posts from the week of April 6th:

Upcoming posts for the week of April 14th:

  • Review: Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  • Library Love, Family Edition
  • …and more!

What a week of great reads! Where do I begin? Loteria was so, so powerful and I won’t soon forget it. Truly a must read, folks. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was an sweet and enchanting tale that stole my heart. Little Bee… Oh, Little Bee. You know those books that you run across now and then that change you just a little bit at the core of your being? That’s what Little Bee did to me. If you read any book out of the books I’ve brought to you here, make it this one. Alias Grace was an epic tale of a (wrongly?) accused young woman in 1800’s Canada and her trip through the justice system and beyond. Epic as in looong, y’all – but still a good read. Accused was one of my “guilty pleasure” reads, kind of one of those mystery novels that drive themselves along without you having to think too much on your own. I do still like to enjoy one of those from time to time. I just earned some Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks so I’ll be making some purchases soon – can’t wait to start the book shopping later this week!

What did you read this week?

 

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Review: The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

weight-of-bloodFor fans of Gillian Flynn, Scott Smith, and Daniel Woodrell comes a gripping, suspenseful novel about two mysterious disappearances a generation apart.

The town of Henbane sits deep in the Ozark Mountains. Folks there still whisper about Lucy Dane’s mother, a bewitching stranger who appeared long enough to marry Carl Dane and then vanished when Lucy was just a child. Now on the brink of adulthood, Lucy experiences another loss when her friend Cheri disappears and is then found murdered, her body placed on display for all to see. Lucy’s family has deep roots in the Ozarks, part of a community that is fiercely protective of its own. Yet despite her close ties to the land, and despite her family’s influence, Lucy—darkly beautiful as her mother was—is always thought of by those around her as her mother’s daughter. When Cheri disappears, Lucy is haunted by the two lost girls—the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t save—and sets out with the help of a local boy, Daniel, to uncover the mystery behind Cheri’s death.
What Lucy discovers is a secret that pervades the secluded Missouri hills, and beyond that horrific revelation is a more personal one concerning what happened to her mother more than a decade earlier.
The Weight of Blood is an urgent look at the dark side of a bucolic landscape beyond the arm of the law, where a person can easily disappear without a trace. Laura McHugh proves herself a masterly storyteller who has created a harsh and tangled terrain as alive and unforgettable as the characters who inhabit it. Her mesmerizing debut is a compelling exploration of the meaning of family: the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths to which we will go to protect the ones we love.” – Publisher Summary

I’m always hesitant when I’m about to read an author’s debut novel. Will it be any good? Will it be worth my time? Will this be an enjoyable experience? Well, friends, in regard to The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh, the answers to those questions are yes, yes, and yes! McHugh’s debut novel about a young woman searching for the truth behind the recent murder of a friend, as well as the long-past disappearance of her own mother when she was just a babe is a compelling and masterfully written novel. I was pulled into this captivating tale from the beginning and was not released from its hold until the very end.

While working for her Uncle Crete for the summer, Lucy discovers the necklace of her murdered friend Cheri, opening a door to questions that may have best been left unanswered. Along the way, she also searches for information about her absent mother, inquiring amongst friends and family for any scraps of detail she can find. She is joined in her quest by her friends Daniel and Bess, and as they come across clue after clue, Lucy begins to make deductions that fill her with dread. What comes to pass will make you question how well you truly know those around you – your friends, your family, any of those that you love.

This tale is narrated by several different people. Lucy is our main storyteller, but we also hear from Lila, her mother, Lucy’s father and uncle, as well as other friends and acquaintances. I generally find such a numerous compilation of narrators to be too much, but in this case it works well, and the vignettes are skillfully woven together to form a story that captures your attention and keeps your heart beating just a little faster until you reach the ultimately satisfying conclusion. McHugh’s character’s are well-rounded and her descriptive writing is magical and even heartbreaking in places:

He knew Lucy would believe him, that she would somehow understand, because he imagined her privy to that spectral world, the realm of unknowable things that existed beyond an invisible sieve, and maybe if he tried hard enough, he could break apart into tiny pieces and sift through to the other side. …If anything, he would have asked her for help, asked how to get where ghosts go on earth, how to stay and watch and haunt without anyone knowing he was there.”

There are two major themes in this novel, both of which I was appreciative of. One, is that the bonds of family are stronger than anything. Two, is that family is not always dictated by blood relations. This is demonstrated within Lucy’s own immediate family with her father and uncle, and with her elderly neighbor, Birdie. This is a lesson that I wish all would learn and hold on to, as it is a precious and tangible reality.

If you are in search of a new read, you need look no further. The Weight of Blood will enthrall you from the moment you open it until you reach the last page.

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh is currently available at a bookseller near you. Buy it, read it, love it.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Random House – Spiegel & Grau {via NetGalley}

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