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Lucky Girls

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Here are five stories, set in Southeast Asia and on the Indian subcontinent -- each one bearing the weight and substance of a short novella -- narrated by young women who find themselves, often as expatriates, face to face with the compelling circumstances of adult love. Living in unfamiliar places, according to new and often frightening rules, these characters become vulnerable in unexpected ways -- and learn, as a result, to articulate the romantic attraction to landscapes and cultures that are strange to them....
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New York, NY 2003 Quarter Cloth First Edition, First Printing New in New jacket 8vo-over 7?"-9?" tall. New York, NY, Ecco Press, 2003. First edition, first printing. 8vo. Royal ... blue quarter cloth over off-white boards with gilt lettering embossed on spine, decorated title page, 225 pp. New in a new dust jacket, protected by a mylar cover. Read more Show Less

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Lucky Girls

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Overview

Here are five stories, set in Southeast Asia and on the Indian subcontinent -- each one bearing the weight and substance of a short novella -- narrated by young women who find themselves, often as expatriates, face to face with the compelling circumstances of adult love. Living in unfamiliar places, according to new and often frightening rules, these characters become vulnerable in unexpected ways -- and learn, as a result, to articulate the romantic attraction to landscapes and cultures that are strange to them. In "Lucky Girls," an American woman who has been involved in a five-year affair with a married Indian man feels bound, following his untimely death, to her memories of him, and to her adopted country. The protagonist of "Outside the Eastern Gate" returns to her childhood home in Delhi to discover a house still inhabited by the desperate and impulsive spirit of her mother who, years before, abandoned her family for a wild, dangerous journey across the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan. And, in "Letter from the Last Bastion," a teenage girl begins a correspondence with a middle-aged male novelist who, having built his reputation writing about his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam, confides in her the secret truth of those experiences, and the lie that has defined his life as a man. Lucky Girls marks the arrival of a writer of exceptional talents, one whose generosity of spirit, clarity of intellect and emotion, and skill in storytelling set her among today's most gifted and exciting young voices.
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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
gorgeously written … a remarkably poised collection of stories … Young writers as ambitious -- and as good -- as Nell Freudenberger give us reason for hope. — Jennifer Schuessler
Publishers Weekly
Freudenberger saw her first story, "Lucky Girls," published in the New Yorker's 2001 debut fiction issue and subsequently received a reported six-figure sum to round out the collection with a bunch more (at that time unwritten) works. The gamble has paid off, at least from a critical perspective: the five long stories in this collection are thoughtful and entertaining. Most take place in Asia and feature Americans living abroad. In the title piece, a young American painter recalls her long affair with a married Indian man. The man has died unexpectedly, and the story traces the development of the narrator's antagonistic yet moving relationship with the mother of her late lover. "The Orphan" is a witty story of a middle-aged couple who, along with their college-age son, go to Thailand for Christmas to visit their daughter and break the news of their impending divorce. The daughter, who works at a Bangkok hospital for orphaned AIDS babies, finds her parents benighted and so... Western, while her brother announces that he belongs to the Cool Rich Kids club, whose members seek to give their parents' money away ("it's this chance to endorse the more radical causes that people your age wouldn't support"). In "The Tutor," a romance blossoms between an Indian SAT coach and a Prada-wearing American teenager living in Bombay who wants nothing more than to get into UC-Berkeley. Many of these tales concern the slow birth and disintegration of romantic relationships, although some lack pull, due to their one-dimensional characters. Freudenberger is more inventive and piquant when she probes characters' relationships to their adopted homelands-which, she shows, are often more passionate and grounded than their ties to the people in their lives. Agent, Amanda Urban. (Sept. 1) Forecast: A 10-city author tour and an NPR campaign will kick things off for Freudenberger, who has already done advance promotion at BEA. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
This American novelist's significant debut features young women experiencing adult love in Southeast Asia and India. These female expatriates view the global community through their own privileged backgrounds in impressive, lyrical, authentic, and exquisite voices. In five stories, Freudenberger provides the reader with an intimate sense of the leap from innocence to experience, the risks of being an outsider, and the strengths of youth making impulsive decisions. The Tutor strikes a familiar cord, as SAT tutor and aspiring writer Zubin in Bombay attempts to further Julia's application to Berkeley, but Julia has other ideas on her mind. The Orphan unearths prejudice and judgment by New York parents in Bangkok as their children also judge them. This story would provide a marvelous discussion between generations because both are so powerfully portrayed. The titular narrative, Lucky Girls, is a simple euphemism for the extreme clash of cultures that are balanced here. Letter from the Last Bastion, a remarkable epistolary effort, highlights a soldier's war crimes in Vietnam, questioning the gap between fact and fiction and marvelously describing "virginity." Outside the Eastern Gate artfully weaves the mystery of a lost mother with personal insecurity. This book is clearly one of the best this reviewer has read in some time. The mature themes and daring prose, however, are meant for adults and a very specific, literary high school audience. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2003, Ecco/HarperCollins, 225p., Ages 15 to Adult.
—Nancy Zachary
Library Journal
Reading Freudenberger's short stories is like walking in on the middle of a conversation and having to leave before you catch up on all of the details. The speakers are at best half explained, motivation remains a mystery, and you are left wanting a fuller explanation of events. These five pieces are set mostly in Asia, with themes that include dysfunctional family relationships, failed love affairs, and abandonment. In the title story, for instance, a young woman considers her bonds to India, her adopted homeland, after her married lover dies. But while the characters are nicely diverse, they inspire neither affection nor loathing; we simply know too little about them. They experience no epiphanies, no dramatic changes in circumstances or personal understanding. The stories work best when read slowly, so that we can contemplate a character's mood, but at most we get a glimpse into a complicated scenario. Nevertheless, Freudenberger came to readers' attention in the vaunted New Yorker fiction issue, and her first collection is being highly touted, which may recommend it to large public and most academic contemporary fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/03.]-Rebecca Stuhr, Grinnell Coll. Libs., IA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Five longish, often familiar, but always readable stories by Freudenberger-like Jonathan Safran Foer, a New Yorker discovery in its Summer 2001 Debut Fiction issue. In the title piece (reprinted from that New Yorker issue), an American girl who paints has an affair with a native Delhi man. When he unexpectedly dies, she's left in a kind of limbo, half-looked-after by the dead man's imperious mother, but not really belonging any longer in Delhi-a fact made cruelly obvious when the dead lover's widow says to her one day, "I have my sons. . . . And you have no one." Longer, looser, and less successful is "The Orphan." An American girl calls home from Bangkok to tell her mother she's been raped by her Thai boyfriend. Result? Meek and wan mother, cold and pompous lawyer father, and college-age brother descend upon her in a "rescue" attempt. All four are spoiled, they fight and nip among themselves, not one is appealing in the least way-and the story's symbols labor against what's asked of them. Altogether more successful-and the best here-is "Outside the Eastern Gate," about another American girl, this one scarred by her poetically (and carelessly) flamboyant mother's abandonment of her-in more than one way. At age 40, the girl returns to her father in his expatriate home in India, where the past crumbles, just as does her father's mind under Alzheimer's. Equally good in its details but much less commanding in it subject is "The Tutor." The American girl lives in Bombay this time, with her divorced father (the mother went back to the US), attending American school and acting like-oy, like a teenager. It's SAT time: she's good in the math but needs work with the verbal, gets a tutor who went toHarvard-and manages to lose her virginity to him. Longest and most strained for its effect is "Letter from the Last Bastian," about a Vietnam-era novelist and the girl of 17 who's writing this long letter about him-and her. Fiction more skillful than memorable. First serial to the Paris Review and Granta; author tour
Raleigh News & Observer
“Skillful and assured...Freudenberger’s prose is smooth.
Houston Press
“Freudenberger is...a fantastic writer.”
Speakeasy magazine
“[Freudenberger’s] stories have the complex nuances of a mature writer.”
Los Angeles Times
“Throughout the book...are moments of sharp humor and wise insight.”
Vogue
“In simple, elegant prose, she renders foreign landscapes with unsentimental precision.”
People
“Lucky Girls is a beautiful story that has a graceful simplicity.”
The Journal News
“Extraordinary stories.”
People Magazine
"Lucky Girls is a beautiful story that has a graceful simplicity."
Speakeasy Magazine
"[Freudenberger’s] stories have the complex nuances of a mature writer."
People
“Lucky Girls is a beautiful story that has a graceful simplicity.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060088798
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/19/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Nell Freudenberger

Nell Freudenberger's collection of stories, Lucky Girls, was a New York Times Notable Book and won the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2005 Freudenberger was the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award. She lives in New York City.

Biography

Unfortunately, nearly as much ink has been spilled poring over Nell Freudenberger's looks and age as has been devoted to her writing. Yes, she is very pretty. Yes, she did have her breakout story "Lucky Girls" published in The New Yorker when she was a mere 26 years old. However, she also happens to be talented and exceptionally intelligent. If her debut novel The Dissident is any indication of what is to come from Freudenberger, then hopefully her fine writing will soon eclipse her image as a literary crumpet.

Harvard-graduate Freudenberger first stirred waves in the publishing world when "Lucky Girls" appeared in the summer 2001 fiction issue of The New Yorker. Whatever conclusions to which one may have jumped after seeing the provocative photo of her that accompanied the piece, Freudenberger's tale clearly spoke for itself. This story of the conflicted feelings an American woman experiences following the death of the Indian man with whom she'd been carrying on a five-year extramarital affair was elegantly written and intelligently realized. "Lucky Girls" also prompted a bidding war amongst publishers eager to get Freudenberger on their roster of talent. Although one publisher reportedly waved a $500,000 deal in front of her face, she opted instead for a $100,000 deal with Ecco because she felt a greater simpatico with Daniel Halpern, an editor at the company. Subsequently, Ecco (an imprint of HarperCollins) published a collection of four novella-length tales by Freudenberger under the title of the story that made her famous. Lucky Girls became a major smash. The New York Times was particularly effervescent in its praise, saying, "Young writers as ambitious -- and as good -- as Nell Freudenberger give us reason for hope."

In spite of the positive reaction Lucky Girls received, Freudenberger refused to allow herself to be charmed by her own success. With characteristic humility, she told India's Economic Times, "Lucky Girls was a huge learning experience for me. It was during the course of writing Lucky Girls that I realised [sic] the enormity of the enterprise and the skill required for it. In a way, I was lucky to get a publisher literally on a platter for my book."

Freudenberger's next hurdle was to complete a full-length novel. Anxious about undertaking the project, she traveled to Bombay, India, and took a room in a boarding house to work on the book. She told Entertainment Weekly, "Once I got there -- I think this always happens when you travel -- but whatever you're worried about suddenly doesn't seem like such a big deal.''

The resulting novel was The Dissident, a clever, intriguing tale about a Chinese performance artist and political dissident who takes up residence in the home of a wealthy but dysfunctional family in Los Angeles Freudenberger's concerns about the novel seem wholly unnecessary considering that The Dissident is a fresh, vivid satire. In its review of the novel, The Library Journal agreed that Freudenberger "remains a writer to watch." With two literary hits under her belt, hopefully she will now be considered worth watching for her accomplished prose -- rather than her other more superficial attributes.

Good To Know

When Lucky Girls hit bookshelves, Entertainment Weekly named Freudenberger "the summer's hottest young writer."

A controversial article about Freudenberger titled "Too Young, Too Pretty, Too Successful," which appeared on Salon.com, was written by fellow young, female novelist Curtis Sittenfeld (Prep; The Man of My Dreams).

Freudenberger once turned down a position at Random House to teach English to teenagers in Bangkok. Her experiences in Bangkok helped shaped Lucky Girls.

In our interview, Freudenberger shared some fun facts about herself with us:

"My first job was in pest control. I collected snails from my family's neighbors' lawns in an foil baking dish. Then I would give them their liberty at the public tennis courts. I got paid a penny a snail. "

"My second job was even less lucrative, as an "actor" on a television program called "Wish Upon a Star." Kids wrote in to the show with their wishes, and the show granted one wish per episode. A girl had written in wishing to wrestle in Jello. However, she lived too far away for this (extremely low budget) show to fly her to the studio. The producer asked my best friend (whose father was a film editor) to be the "star" and I had the non-speaking friend role. My sympathy for the original wisher -- who had to watch two other kids getting her wish on television -- was intense, but not as intense as the thrill of wrestling in Jello on television. There were three rounds. We wore basketball jerseys that said "Super Sarah" and "Nifty Nell." There was no biting, kicking or hair-pulling allowed. The show only aired once, as far as I know, on cable. There was a tape, which hopefully no longer exists.

"I do ashtanga yoga, which is required by law if you are a woman between the ages of eighteen and sixty-five living in Manhattan."

"I like to cook for friends, but I tend to get very stressed out and make lists that say things like, ‘8:15: ask if anyone wants more wine' and ‘8:25: take lid off chicken!'"

"I love to travel, especially on the train. I'm learning Chinese (very slowly). Obviously I love to read, but I'm not sure that counts as a hobby.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 21, 1975
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Harvard University, 1997; M.F.A., New York University, 2000

Table of Contents

Lucky Girls 1
The Orphan 28
Outside the Eastern Gate 67
The Tutor 110
Letter from the Last Bastion 161
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First Chapter

Lucky Girls
Stories

Chapter One

I had often imagined meeting Mrs. Chawla, Arun's mother. It would be in a restaurant, and I would be wearing a sophisticated blue suit that my mother had sent me soon after I moved to India, and Mrs. Chawla would not be able to keep herself from admiring it. Of course, in those fantasies Arun was always with me.

As it happened, Mrs. Chawla appeared early one morning, in a car with a driver, unannounced. I was sitting at the kitchen table in my painting shorts, having a cup of tea. There was no time to straighten up the living room or take a shower. I went into the bedroom, where Arun and I had often slept, and put on a dress -- wrinkled, but at least it was clean. I put my cup in the sink and set a pot of water on the stove. Then I watched through the window. Mrs. Chawla had got out of the car and was standing with her arms crossed, instructing her driver how to park. The car moved forward, backed up, and then inched forward again.

Mrs. Chawla shaded her eyes to look at the backyard: the laundry line with my clothes hanging on it, the grackles perched on the telephone pole, the pile of soft, rotting bricks. I had a feeling that had come to seem familiar in the eight months since Arun had died, a kind of panic that made me want to stand very still.

The bell rang.

"Hello, Mrs. Chawla," I said. "I'm glad you came." From her handwriting, I had expected someone more imposing. She was several inches shorter than I was, and heavy. Her hair was long and dyed black, with a dramatic white streak in the front; and she was wearing a navy blue salwar-kameez, the trousers of which were tapered at the ankles, in a style that was just becoming fashionable.

"Yes," she said. "I've been meaning to. I can't stay long." She gave me a funny smile, as if I weren't what she had expected, either.

"Will you have some tea?" I offered.

"Do you have tea?" she asked, sounding surprised. She looked at the drawn blinds in the living room. There was a crumpled napkin next to the salt and pepper shakers on the table, where I had eaten dinner the night before, and which I had asked Puja, the servant, to clean. Now that it was summer, cockroaches had started coming out of the walls.

"Please don't go to any trouble," she said. "Puja can do it -- is she in the kitchen?" Arun had hired Puja to do my cooking and cleaning; when he told me she had worked for his mother, I'd hoped that Mrs. Chawla was making a friendly gesture. In fact, Puja was a terrible housekeeper and a severely limited cook. She lived in a room at the back of the house, with her husband and four little girls; at night I often saw her crouched in the backyard, making chapatis on a pump stove with a low blue flame.

Mrs. Chawla walked confidently toward the kitchen, calling Puja in a proprietary voice, and I realized that Arun's mother had been in my house before. She could have come any number of times, in the afternoons, when I taught art at the primary school or went out shopping in Khan Market. Puja would have let her in without hesitation.

When Mrs. Chawla reappeared, she scrutinized the chairs, before choosing to sit on the sofa. She smiled, revealing a narrow space between her teeth. "Where exactly are you from?" she asked.

"My father lives in Boston, but my mother is in California now," I told her.

"Ah," said Mrs. Chawla softly, as if that explained everything. "An American family. That must make it difficult to decide where to return to."

I had no plans to return, as I should have explained. "It rules out Boston and California," I said instead.

Mrs. Chawla didn't smile.

My brother, I added, was getting married in Boston in July.

"And you like the bride?" she asked.

"Oh," I said. "I only met her once." I could feel the next question coming, and then a thing happened that often happens to me with people who make me nervous.

"What's her name?" Mrs. Chawla asked.

Her name, which I knew perfectly well, slipped into some temporarily unrecoverable place. "Actually, I don't remember," I said.

Mrs. Chawla looked at me, puzzled. "How strange," she said.

Puja brought the tea. She knelt on the floor and began placing things, item by item, on the coffee table: spoons, cups, saucers, milk, sugar, and a small plate of Indian sweets that Mrs. Chawla must have brought with her. The tea, it seemed, was no longer my hospitable gesture.

"How is she doing?" Mrs. Chawla asked, nodding at Puja.

"She's wonderful," I lied. Now that Arun wasn't here to tell her what to do, the house was getting dirtier and dirtier.

Puja's little girls were watching us from the kitchen doorway. When Mrs. Chawla saw them, she said suddenly, "Girls," and repeated it sharply in Hindi. "I have told her that if she has another baby" -- Mrs. Chawla paused and looked at Puja-- "Bas! Enough, I'm sending her back to Orissa." She turned back to me. "That's east India," she informed me, as if I had never seen a map of the subcontinent. "The people there are tribals. Did you know that? Puja is a tribal. These people have nothing, you know, except floods and cyclones. Now they're having terrible floods -- have you seen them on television? Thousands of people are sick, and there isn't enough drinking water. I tell her that, and what do you think she says?"

Puja knew only a few words of English. She seemed to be smiling at her feet, which were bare, extremely small, and decorated with silver toe rings ...

Lucky Girls
Stories
. Copyright © by Nell Freudenberger. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

Introduction

"I don't have a memory of going to the fort that day, but my father said we did. He said that when I asked, he told me I was too young to go to Afghanistan, and that half an hour later, when he thought I had forgotten, I looked at him -- we were on the lawn, where you could watch the women in pink and yellow saris cutting the grass with machetes -- and said, "What about Afghanistan children?" "Even at that age your logical powers were astonishing," my father said. He had hoped for a long time that I would become a scientist.

I think my father may have misremembered. "Afghanistan children" sounds invented, like something a child would say in a Hollywood movie; in addition, and probably more importantly, I had never had the same status as a brown child, couldn't do the things I saw them doing right in Sunder Nagar -- playing cricket, flying kites, or, outside the gates, selling corn, touching the mangy dogs in the market, carrying smaller children on their backs. I knew that just because it wasn't safe for me to be seven in Afghanistan, that didn't mean there wasn't a whole class of Afghan seven-year-olds for whom it was."

-- from "Outside the Eastern Gate"

Questions for Discussion

  1. In this collection of five novella-like stories revolving around expatriate Americans living in Asia, each story turns on a moment of self-awareness. In "Outside the Eastern Gate," Nandani says, "traveling is for people who don't know how to be happy." What does she mean by that statement? Do the protagonists of each story eventually realize something about themselves? What is the object of each traveler's search?

  2. "Although I don'tfeel the need to travel all over the world, I like hearing about foreign places" says Miss Fish in "Letter from the Last Bastion." Content with her life in Lancaster, PA, Miss Fish diverges sharply from the characters in the preceding stories. Miss Fish is also the least privileged of all the major characters. Compare Miss Fish to the narrator's mother, Jean, in "Outside the Eastern Gate," who is perhaps the most restless figure in this collection. Do their dissimilarities stem solely from innate differences in temperament? What are some ideas, presented in Lucky Girls, regarding the unglamorous notion of accepting one's lot in life?

  3. Following Hemmingway's directive to writers, In "Letter from the Last Bastion" Henry uses the war as a whetstone, and becomes famous for his thinly veiled autobiographical novels. Yet the key passage in his book, "The Birder," never happened. "If you want to tell the true story of your life, you have to include the not only all the things you have done, but all the things you haven't" believes Henry, according to Miss Fish. Are possible courses of action as real as the one actually taken? Ultimately, who is the intended recipient of Miss Fish's letter? How does this story examine a writer's choices and the nature of storytelling?

  4. In "Letter from the Last Bastion," Francois looks at Henry "as if he were being interrupted by a particularly irritating child." Are the other Americans in Lucky Girls also perceived as children by the people they encounter? Think of Mrs. Chawla's impatience at having to explain Indian social codes to the American mistress of her deceased son, who refuses to leave India, in "Lucky Girls"; the waiter, Chai's, exaggerated Americanisms in "The Orphan"; Nandani's attempts to buffer the children from their mother's rash impulses in "Outside the Eastern Gate." When Zubin, in "The Tutor," is a foreign student in America, he "felt as if he were surrounded by enormous and powerful children." Do you agree with this assessment? Could some American ideals be perceived as naïve when juxtaposed against another cultural backdrop?

  5. In "The Orphan" Mandy reverses her initial accusation of rape, dismissing what happened as a "cultural misunderstanding." Do you think she's being naïve in the first instance or the second? Mrs. Chawla tells the narrator in "Lucky Girls" that she wasn't invited to her lover's funeral because "Nobody would've known what you were." Do you think these characters understand their foreign surroundings as well as they think they do?

  6. In "The Orphan," when Alice looks at her recently-separated-from husband, she sees someone "who washes with a different soap, eats a different cereal or doesn't eat cereal, maybe doesn't eat breakfast at all; sleeps naked or with the windows open, listens to opera or salsa of bluegrass: a stranger." How important are these domestic details in truly knowing someone? How important are they to Alice? Consider the family unit as Alice would like it to be -- a postwar suburban ideal of a homemaker mother, authoritative father, sweet and smart daughter and a prodigal younger son. Are these roles anachronistic? How does being in Thailand expose each family member's desires and personalities? At the conclusion of the story, how precarious is Alice's hope of future happiness? Does happiness inevitably involve compromise?

  7. Alice thinks her children's behave in Thailand as though they "had never been given breakfast, or stayed in an air-conditioned hotel." In "The Tutor," Julia thinks her sister liked to "pretend she was poor...and when she came to visit them in Paris she acted surprised." How does Zubin's inverted experience in America compare to those of the Americans' abroad? Why is does he feel embarrassed about borrowing his American roommate's sweaters, while Julia's sister, like Mandy in "The Orphan," revel in the novelty (or the pretense) of going without?

  8. In "The Tutor," Zubin returns to India because in doing so "something would fall back in place, not just inside him but in front of him, like lengths of replacement track." If homesickness is, perhaps literally, a sense of dislocation, what is the 'something' that Zubin hoped would fall into place? Has he changed too much after his experiences in America? Consider the definitions of "home" that occur in this story. Julia's father believes that "you can bring your home with you"; in the market, a poster silently and grimly declaims, "Home is where. When you go there, they have to let you in." Do the characters in Lucky Girls fit Zubin's assessment: "Americans could go all over the world and still be Americans; they could live just the way they did at home and nobody wondered who they were, or why they were doing things the ways they did"? How would you define "home?"

  9. In "Lucky Girls," Arun dislikes the Indian garb on Western women, "because clothes mean something here. Historically. And when you wear them it's for romance, glamour -- you don't mean anything." The narrator of this story admires a buffalo's shiny black coat, only to discover a buffalo carcass thickly covered in black flies. She admires the singing of a bird at night, only to be told that it's the sound an "all-clear" whistle from the patrolling night watchman. To her, "a red cricket ball ... looked like some kind of exotic bloom." Do these moments convey anything in particular about her understanding of India? Does she prove Arun correct despite her attempts to the contrary? In glossing over the malign, or even the ordinary, as beautiful, what sort of reality has she created for herself?

  10. Consider the narrator's feelings for Arun and India in "Lucky Girls," Mandy's defense of Joo in "The Orphan," Laura's letters regarding Andreas in "Letter from the Last Bastion" -- is love separable from fascination with the exotic in these instances? The narrator's mother in "Outside the Eastern Gate" used to say that going back to America was like "waking up out of the most beautiful dream you'd ever had." Why do you think she relocates so often, venturing into a land more exotic each time? Why do you think she visited the temple in the derelict part of town? Is she searching for spiritual guidance or love? In either case, what compels her to search so far from her home, where her children are tremblingly eager to show her their love?

  11. Where do these stories fit in the canon of travel literature? Do they rebuke the colonial fantasies of the past? Consider the Orphanage, the hotel, the Jim Thompson House and The Spice Route restaurant In "The Orphan." What do Thais promoting those fantasies for tourist dollars imply? All five novellas are consistent in tone -- ambiguous, wry, with light touches of deadpan humor. Did you find this unsettling? What are your expectations when reading about young women traveling in foreign countries?

About the author

Nell Freudenberger has taught English in Bangkok and New Delhi, and currently lives in New York City. Lucky Girls is her first book.

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Customer Reviews

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( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2004

    Surprised it won an award

    I did not enjoy this at all, the characters were not likeable, the writing was not inspiring. When I saw that it had won an award I had hope. Perhaps I should dust off my own medicore pieces and see what I come up with.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2004

    Awful

    This is one of the most boring and contrived books written and published in the past years. Very poor character devt and no good sense of narrative and dull, MFA'd cookie-cutter approaches, pass on this one folks.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2004

    Borrow it from the library

    When I first read the reviews for this book I was very eager to read the stories therein- I had no idea that the reviews would be better than the stories themselves. There is one story in the middle of the book that turned out very well (a good thing, if not I wouldn't have wanted to continue reading) but the other stories proved to be a bit weak in both storyline, and writing. If you'd like to read this book, borrow it from the library.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2014

    ?

    It sounds like it sucks

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2006

    I love this book

    I used to work in a book store and got this book as an advance reading copy. I LOVED it so much that now I often buy it to give as gifts. A beautiful collection of short stories!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2003

    A little disappointing...

    I enjoyed reading one of the author's short stories in The New Yorker, and had eagerly been anticipating this collection. Several of the stories are consisent with the New Yorker story: many of the main characters are expatriats experiencing dilemnas with love, and confusion with where they belong. While I enjoyed the first few stories and found them to be very well written, the later stories, especially the last story about the author, were not as enjoyable. Overall, I found the common themes and tone of the collection to be melancholy and depressing .

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2009

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