What begins as the unexpected meeting between Iris and Eva becomes a far-ranging encounter that takes these two quirky half sisters and sometimes their conman father to Golden Age Hollywood, gritty Brooklyn, Nazi Germany, and beyond. Well-written and filled with spunky characters and an engaging, memorable supporting cast, this new novel by Amy Bloom (Come to Me; Away) received this rave from one early reader: "a poignant book that manages to be funny, an unflinching portrait that manages to be tender, a tough story that manages to also have jazz and grace."
Lucky Usby Amy Bloom
“My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his/b>/b>/b>/i>/i>/i>
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“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” (The New York Times). Lucky Us is a brilliantly written, deeply moving, fantastically funny novel of love, heartbreak, and luck.
Disappointed by their families, Iris, the hopeful star and Eva the sidekick, journey through 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris’s ambitions take the pair across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, and to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island.
With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine though 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, conventional and otherwise. 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.
Praise for Lucky Us
“Lucky Us is a remarkable accomplishment. One waits a long time for a novel of this scope and dimension, replete with surgically drawn characters, a mix of comedy and tragedy that borders on the miraculous, and sentences that should be in a sentence museum. Amy Bloom is a treasure.”—Michael Cunningham
“Exquisite . . . a short, vibrant book about all kinds of people creating all kinds of serial, improvisatory lives.”—The New York Times
“Bighearted, rambunctious . . . a bustling tale of American reinvention . . . If America has a Victor Hugo, it is Amy Bloom, whose picaresque novels roam the world, plumb the human heart and send characters into wild roulettes of kismet and calamity.”—The Washington Post
“Bloom’s crisp, delicious prose gives [Lucky Us] the feel of sprawling, brawling life itself. . . . Lucky Us is a sister act, which means a double dose of sauce and naughtiness from the brilliant Amy Bloom.”—The Oregonian
“A tasty summer read that will leave you smiling . . . Broken hearts [are] held together by lipstick, wisecracks and the enduring love of sisters.”—USA Today
“Exquisitely imagined . . . [a] grand adventure.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Marvelous picaresque entertainment . . . a festival of joy and terror and lust and amazement that resolves itself here, warts and all, in a kind of crystalline Mozartean clarity of vision.”—Elle
From the Trade Paperback edition.
For her latest, Bloom (Away) offers something unrepentantly quirky, a madcap romp complete with road trips, secret identities, aspiring Hollywood starlets, and a tarot card-reading fake psychic. Like many screwball comedies, it starts off during the Great Depression, but it reaches its emotional climax during World War II. Eva and Iris are half sisters who flee the Midwest for California only to find themselves on the road again, heading east with their father. Along the way, they pick up strays such as German American Gus, creating a family of misfits. Gus is eventually sent to an internment camp and later repatriated to Germany, leaving Eva to hold together the remains of her patchwork clan after big sister Iris flees to England. VERDICT At its core, this is a novel of resilience, with the war serving as both a life-changing event and no more than the background noise of an impoverished existence. Full of intriguing characters and lots of surprises, it's not for those who have taken a stand against offbeat characters, but readers of literary fiction and 20th-century historicals, as well as fans of wacky humor, will find it an excellent choice. [See Prepub Alert, 2/10/14.]—Pamela Mann, St. Mary's Coll. Lib., MD
“These two things about Amy Bloom’s surprise-filled Lucky Us are indisputable: It opens with a terrific hook and closes with an image of exquisite resolution. . . . She writes sharp, sparsely beautiful scenes that excitingly defy expectation, and part of the pleasure of reading her is simply keeping up with her. You won’t know where Lucky Us is headed until, suddenly, it’s there. . . . The book’s opening lines, destined to be quoted in many a classroom for their perfection, are: ‘My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us.’ . . . [It’s] a short, vibrant book about all kinds of people creating all kinds of serial, improvisatory lives. Changes occur because characters fall in and out of love, trouble and, yes, luck. And even when the bad luck is devastating, they dust themselves off and inventively move on.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“Bighearted, rambunctious . . . a bustling tale of American reinvention . . . [a] high-octane tale of two half-sisters who take it upon themselves to reverse their sorry, motherless fortunes . . . If America has a Victor Hugo, it is Amy Bloom, whose picaresque novels roam the world, plumb the human heart and send characters into wild roulettes of kismet and calamity. . . . Love will fizz and fizzle, outrageous lies will be told, orphans will find happiness and heartbreak, and fate will sweep in to drive characters into hellish corners of the world. . . . There are few American novelists writing today who can spin a yarn as winningly. . . . Welcome to America, dear reader. Lucky us.”—The Washington Post
“Bloom’s crisp, delicious prose gives [Lucky Us] the feel of sprawling, brawling life itself. . . . Lucky Us is a sister act, which means a double dose of sauce and naughtiness from the brilliant Amy Bloom.”—The Oregonian
“A tasty summer read that will leave you smiling . . . Lucky Us is about Bloom’s uncanny ability to conjure the tone of the war years—broken hearts held together by lipstick, wisecracks and the enduring love of sisters, come what may.”—USA Today
“Exquisitely imagined . . . [a] grand adventure.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Marvelous picaresque entertainment . . . Our heroines’ prospects darken, brighten, and darken again with every turn of Bloom’s cosmic kaleidoscope. Parades of finely drawn characters—a Spanish makeup artist, a black jazz singer afflicted with vitiligo, a lovely Italian nouveau riche family in Great Neck, New York, a soulful German mechanic—enter and leave the scene. . . . To read Bloom’s fiction is to experience afresh how life is ruled by chance and composed of spare parts that are purposed and repurposed in uncanny ways—it’s a festival of joy and terror and lust and amazement that resolves itself here, warts and all, in a kind of crystalline Mozartean clarity of vision.”—Elle
“A fireworks display of delightful, if sometimes confounding, surprises . . . wildly twisting . . . spryly spontaneous.”—The Wall Street Journal
“[Bloom] writes with such spare, efficient grace. . . . Her words are carefully chosen to cut clean and deep. . . . Even [her] casual asides stack up, like pearls strung on a wire. . . . Taken together, they make this odd, precocious girl’s story feel as big and small and strangely marvelous as life itself. [Grade] A-”—Entertainment Weekly
“This coming-of-age story begs for a string of exuberant adjectives: heartbreaking, triumphant, lush and sparkling. . . . The book is fanciful but deep, the world is flawed but beautiful, and Eva can never decide between grief and joy because, it turns out, you can’t: Life is a high-wire balancing act suspended between the two.”—More
“In Bloom’s masterful hands, this scrappy band of misfits is totally loveable.”—Marie Claire
“In a relatively small number of pages, she gracefully creates a bustling crowd of characters, many of whom might well star in a novel of their own. . . . Lucky Us is a beautifully textured story of getting by and moving on; of a time when Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s ‘plummy, patrician voice . . . managed to be the voice of people who never spoke that way’; of creating a family from both the people you’re born to and the ones you find along the way. And, most of all, it’s a wickedly warmhearted tale of two very different sisters and their meandering paths through young adulthood; each finding, eventually, her own way home.”—The Seattle Times
“Bloom’s book beautifully explores the myriad ways in which we define and create the American family, and ultimately how we carve our path when life keeps throwing obstacles in our way. . . . Lucky Us is a beautiful novel with complicated and layered messages about survival, family and obligation, but ultimately it is a novel about hope and possibility, when we finally understand that we are more than the sum of our circumstances.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A novel of striking emotional depth, proving anew the Chekhovian truth that genuine comedy can be deeply sad.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Imaginative . . . gloriously satisfying . . . These characters are separated by fate and distance, but form a vividly rendered patchwork American family (straight, gay, white, black, citizen, immigrant). Bloom transforms history to create a story of stunning invention, with characters that readers will feel lucky to encounter.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Unrepentantly quirky, a madcap romp complete with road trips, secret identities, aspiring Hollywood starlets, and a tarot card–reading fake psychic . . . At its core, this is a novel of resilience, with the war serving as both a life-changing event and no more than the background noise of an impoverished existence. Full of intriguing characters and lots of surprises . . . readers of literary fiction and twentieth-century historicals, as well as fans of wacky humor, will find it an excellent choice.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“A multilayered, historical tale about different kinds of love and family. Bloom enlivens her story with understated humor as well as offbeat and unforgettable characters. . . . A hard-luck coming-of-age story with heart.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Lucky Us indeed—another Amy Bloom book. And, if it’s possible, even more powerful and affecting than her last novel, Away. This is a poignant book that manages to be funny, an unflinching portrait that manages to be tender, a tough story that manages to also have jazz and grace. Bloom is a great writer who keeps stepping into new territory, entirely unafraid. She is one of America’s unique and most gifted literary voices.”—Colum McCann
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Read an Excerpt
I’d Know You Anywhere
My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us.
She tapped my nose with her grapefruit spoon. “It’s like this,” she said. “Your father loves us more, but he’s got another family, a wife, and a girl a little older than you. Her family had all the money. Wipe your face.”
There was no one like my mother, for straight talk. She washed my neck and ears until they shone. We helped each other dress: her lilac dress, with the underarm zipper, my pink one with the tricky buttons. My mother did my braids so tight, my eyes pulled up. She took her violet cloche and her best gloves and she ran across the road to borrow Mr. Portman’s car. I was glad to be going and I thought I could get to be glad about having a sister. I wasn’t sorry my father’s other wife was dead.
We’d waited for him for weeks. My mother sat by the window in the morning and smoked through supper every night. When she came home from work at Hobson’s, she was in a bad mood, even after I rubbed her feet. I hung around the house all July, playing with Mr. Portman’s poodle, waiting for my father to drive up. When he came, he usually came by two o’clock, in case there was a Fireside Chat that day. We listened to all the Fireside Chats together. We loved President Roosevelt. On Sundays, when my father came, he brought a pack of Lucky Strikes for my mother and a Hershey bar for me. After supper, my mother sat in my father’s lap and I sat right on his slippers and if there was a Fireside Chat, my father did his FDR imitation. Good evening, friends, he said, and he stuck a straw in his mouth like a cigarette holder. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. He bowed to my mother and said, Eleanor, my dear, how ’bout a waltz? They danced to the radio for a while and then it was my bedtime. My mother put a few bobby pins in my hair for curls and my father carried me to bed, singing, “I wish I could shimmy like my sister Kate.” Then he tucked me in and shimmied out the door. Monday mornings, he was gone and I waited until Thursday, and sometimes, until next Sunday.
My mother parked the car and redid her lipstick. My father’s house was two stories of red stone and tall windows, with fringed lace curtains behind and wide brown steps stacked like boxes in front of the shining wood door. Your father does like to have things nice, while he’s away, she said. It sure is nice, I said. We ought to live here.
My mother smiled at me and ran her tongue over her teeth. Could be, she said—you never know. She’d already told me she was tired of Abingdon, where we’d been since I was born. It was no kind of real town and she was fed up to here hostessing at Hobson’s. We talked a lot about finding ourselves a better life in Chicago. Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin’ town . . . I saw a man, he danced with his wife. I sang as we got out of the car and I did a few dance steps like in the movies. My mother said, You are the bee’s knees, kiddo, and she grabbed the back of my dress. She licked her palm and pressed it to my bangs, so they wouldn’t fly up. She straightened her skirt and told me to check her seams. Straight as arrows, I said, and we went up the stairs hand in hand.
My mother knocked and my father answered the door in the blue vest he wore at our house during the president’s speeches. My father hugged me and my parents whispered to each other while I stood there, trying to see more of the parlor, which was as big as our whole apartment and filled with flowers. (Maybe my father said, What the hell are you doing here? Maybe my mother cursed him for staying away, but I doubt it. My father had played the gentleman his whole life and my mother must have said to me a hundred times that men needed to be handled right and a woman who couldn’t handle her man had only herself to blame. “When I say men are dogs,” she’d say, “I’m not being insulting. I like dogs.”) Behind my father, I saw a tall girl.
“My daughter Iris,” my father said. I could hear my mother breathe in.
“Iris,” he said, “this is my friend Mrs. Logan and her daughter, her lovely daughter, Eva.”
I knew, standing in their foyer, that this girl had a ton of things I didn’t have. Flowers in crystal vases the size of buckets. Pretty, light-brown curls. My father’s hand on her shoulder. She wore a baby-blue sweater and a white blouse with a bluebird pin on the collar. I think she wore stockings. Iris was sixteen and she looked like a grown woman to me. She looked like a movie star. My father pushed us to the stairs and told Iris to entertain me in her room while he and my mother had a chat.
“Picture this,” Iris said. She lay on her bed and I sat on the braided rug next to it. She gave me a couple of gumdrops and I was happy to sit there. She was a great talker and a perfect mimic. “The whole college came to my mother’s funeral. My grandfather used to be president of the college, but he had a stroke last year, so he’s different now. There was this one girl, red hair, really awful. Redheads. Like they didn’t cook long enough or something.”
“I think Paulette Goddard’s a redhead,” I said. I’d read this in Photoplay last week.
“How old are you, ten? Who the hell wants to be Paulette Goddard? Anyway, this redheaded girl comes back to our house. She’s just bawling to beat the band. So this lady, our neighbor, Mrs. Drysdale, says to her, ‘Were you very close to dear Mrs. Acton?’ ”
The way Iris said this, I could just see Mrs. Drysdale, sticking her nose in, keeping her spotted veil out of her mouth while she ate, her wet hankie stuffed into her big bosom, which my mother told me was a disgusting thing to do.
“I’m twelve,” I said.
Iris said, “My mother was like a saint—everybody says so. She was nice to everyone, but I don’t want people thinking my mother wasted her time on this stupid girl, so I turn around and say that none of us even know who she is and she runs into the powder room downstairs—this is the funny part—the door gets stuck, and she can’t get out. She’s banging on the door and two professors have to jimmy it open. It was funny.”
Iris told me that the whole college (I didn’t know my father taught at a college; if you had asked me, I would have said that he read books for a living) came to the chapel to grieve for her mother, to offer sympathy to her and her father. She said that all of their family friends were there, which was her way of telling me that my mother could not really be a friend of her father’s.
We heard the voices downstairs and then a door shutting and then the piano, playing “My Angel Put the Devil in Me.” I didn’t know my father played the piano. Iris and I stood at her bedroom door, leaning into the hall. We heard the toilet flush, which was embarrassing but reassuring and then my father started playing the “Moonlight Sonata” and then we heard a car’s engine. Iris and I ran downstairs. My mother’d left the front door open and just slipped into Mr. Portman’s car. She’d set a brown tweed suitcase on the front porch. I stood on the porch holding the suitcase, looking at the road. My father sat down in the rocker and pulled me onto his lap, which he’d stopped doing last year. He asked me if I thought my mother was coming back and I asked him, Do you think my mother is coming back? My father asked me if I had any other family on my mother’s side, and I lay my head on his shoulder. I’d seen my father most Sundays and some Thursdays since I was a baby, and the whole rest of my family was my mother. I was friendly with Mr. Portman and his poodle and all of my teachers had taken an interest in me, and that was the sum of what you could call my family.
Iris opened the screen door and looked at me the way a cat looks at a dog.
We sat down to meat loaf and mashed potatoes and the third time Iris told me to get my elbows off the table, this isn’t a boardinghouse, my father said, Behave yourself, Iris. She’s your sister. Iris left the room and my father told me to improve my manners. You’re not living in that dreadful town anymore and you’re not Eva Logan anymore, he said. You’re Eva Acton. We’ll say you’re my niece.
I was thirteen before I understood that my mother wasn’t coming back to get me.
Iris didn’t ignore me for very long. She bossed me. She talked to me like Claudette Colbert talked to Louise Beavers in Imitation of Life, when she said, “We’re in the same boat, Delilah,” which showed that the white lady had no idea what the hell she was talking about, and of course Louise Beavers just sighed and made more pancakes.
Iris helped me navigate junior high. (A big, red-faced girl cornered me after two weeks and said, Who are you, anyway? Iris dropped a manicured hand on the girl’s shoulder and said, Gussie, this is my cousin Eva Acton. Her mother has also passed away. And the girl said—and who can blame her—Jeez, what are you two, vampires? Don’t walk past my house, is all I’m saying.)
I helped Iris prepare for her contests: elocution, rhetoric, dramatic readings, poetry readings, patriotic essays, and dance. Iris was a star. She had a lot of admirers at school, and some girls who didn’t like her, and she didn’t care. I pretended I didn’t care either. I hung around the library and got A’s and my real job, as I saw it, was to help Iris with her contests.
Things were not as nice at the house as they were the day my mother dropped me off. We didn’t have fresh flowers anymore and everything was a little dusty. Iris and I cleaned our rooms and we were supposed to clean the parlor and the kitchen too, but we didn’t. No one did. My father opened cans of salmon or tuna fish and dumped them on our plates, on top of a lettuce leaf. Sometimes he boiled six hot dogs with a can of beans and put a jar of mustard on the table.
I found Charlotte Acton’s very clean copy of Joy of Cooking and I asked my father if I could use it. My father said that he wanted me to know that he and Iris would eat anything I deigned to make. Irma Rombauer said on the first page to begin by facing the stove. I put a bunch of parsley and a lemon in a chicken and put it in the oven for a couple of hours. We finished the chicken and my father thanked me.
On my thirteenth birthday, I made crepes, my father read “The Highwayman” aloud, and we had pineapple upside-down cake for dessert. Iris put the candles in and they both sang.
On New Year’s Eve, our father went out and Iris and I drank gin and orange juice out of her mother’s best cherry-blossom teacups.
“May the hinges of our friendship never grow rusty,” Iris said. “I got that from Brigid, the maid. Before your time.”
“Hear, hear,” I said, and we hooked elbows and choked down the gin.
One night in February, I woke up to Iris slapping me. It’s true that Iris was not the sister I might have dreamed of. (Not that I’d ever dreamed of a sister at all. I dreamed of having a poodle, like Mr. Portman’s, and for years I dreamed that my mother hired a private eye to find me and came crying to the doorstep of wherever I was living. I never let her in.) But Iris had never hit me before. I’d been in her house for more than a year and she’d never even set foot in my room. When Iris wanted to talk to me, she’d stand in the hallway and point and I’d go sit on her braided rug, next to her bed.
“You sneaky, thieving, filthy bitch.” Her opal ring, the one from her mother, snagged in my hair, and we were stuck together, both of us crying. She yanked me out of bed and across the floor, until she got her hand loose. She threw everything I had, which wasn’t much and most of it clothes she didn’t want anymore, onto the floor. Oh, Christ, she said. I know it wasn’t you. She lay down on the floor next to me, panting.
Iris said my father had stolen a hundred dollars she’d hidden under her mattress. He’d taken it all. It had happened one time before I’d come and then she moved her hiding place, but now he’d found it again. She had five bucks in her hand from tonight at the Pulaski Club, for one of her best speeches, “What Makes America Great?” and she was damned if Edgar was going to get it. She banged around my room, pulling all the books off my little bookshelf. She went into her room and came back with the big scissors we used to make some of her mother’s clothes into things she could wear for her recitations. She cut the middle out of my copy of Little Women, page by page, from “Genius burns!” until almost the end, when Amy marries Laurie, which I hated anyway.
This is my Hollywood and Vine money, she said. That’s my next stop. She put all of my books back nicely and she put my shoes and my clothes back in my closet. She brushed my hair. She folded up the cardigans that used to be hers, and my room and I looked better than usual.
It was amazing to me that Iris had made so much money from her contests. It was amazing to me that she thought it’d be smarter to keep her money in my room. I thought she was mistaken about my father stealing her money in the first place, but she wasn’t. Iris was just being Iris. I don’t think she was more observant or more intuitive than I was. I saw plenty, but I never knew what to make of it. Iris saw only what mattered to Iris, but she really paid attention, like a pilot watching for the flashing lights of the landing strip below. Her attention was the only thing that stood between her and a terrible crash. Iris said I was more like someone with a crazy radio inside of me, and half the time the radio said things worth knowing and half the time it said things like, “Crops fail in Mississippi.” Every time Iris won, from Valentine’s Day to Memorial Day, she folded the money into her bra. My father waited up for her and every time, he’d ask her if she’d like him to hold on to her winnings. She always said, No, thanks, and went straight to her room, to throw him off. She was very polite about it.
The day after graduation (me from eleventh grade, with the prize in English literature and social studies, Iris from high school with a standing ovation and our father reciting “Gunga Din” at both places) Iris gave her speech about “The Fallen” for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. It brought down the house. Really, Iris said, I was great. And I was improvising. I said that she was better than great, that she was as good as Judy Garland, but prettier. Iris said that Judy Garland could cry at the drop of a hot dog and that she knew she had to work on that herself.
Iris did the Rotary and the Exchange Clubs and the American Association of University Women get-togethers from Windsor to Cincinnati, all summer long. She entered every contest within fifty miles, even if she had to hitch a ride and carry her dress clothes and shoes in a sack. She won them all. Sometimes, when Iris walked into the auditorium, you could hear the other girls sigh. She won a fifty-dollar bond from the Midwestern Carpenters Union for best speech by a boy or girl and she trounced the Italian girls with “Musetta’s Waltz” at Casa Italia in Galesburg, where she also won in a walk for “Why I Am Proud to Be an American” at Temple Beth Israel, reciting as Iris Katz. The two of us did pretty well in the corn-shucking contests at the fairground. The corn wagons each held about twenty-five bushels and Iris and I did about sixty pounds together. We came in first in the Youth Group, Girls and we came in second for Youth Group, Seniors, right behind two boys who looked like they’d done nothing but shuck corn their whole lives. We pulled the silk off each other and had root-beer floats. The ten dollars went right into Little Women. Sometimes I opened the book just to look at Iris’s money. At night, I sewed the sequins back on the outfit that was resting, or I basted the pleats on the sailor skirt or I put ribbon on her worn-out cuffs and waited for her to come home. The sequins came loose after every performance and my bed was always covered in them.
It was the day before Labor Day and hot and there were no contests anywhere and no party to get ready for. Iris and I walked down to Paradise Lake, the big pond at the edge of Windsor College. I dragged my feet to make dust devils. Iris took off her shoes and socks and put her feet in the water. She lit a cigarette and I lay down next to her. Iris took two beers out of her bag and I took out last week’s Screen magazine.
“There’s your heartthrob, Paulette Goddard,” she said. “I can do what she does.”
I thought Iris probably could. I kept watch for my father while Iris smoked, her eyes closed.
“Let’s get wet,” Iris said, and I ran back to my room to look for my bathing suit. My father was on his knees in my closet, one hand on my black party shoe.
“I thought you girls were down at the pond.”
“I have to change,” I said. “Iris’s already down there. She brought her suit with her.”
“Your sister plans ahead,” he said. “You are more hey-nonny-nonny.”
He tucked my shoe back into the closet and stood up, smiling a little absently, the way he did at breakfast, when I was talking while he was reading.
When I told Iris she said, “That sonofabitch. You have to do what I tell you.”
I said I would, whatever it was.
Meet the Author
Amy Bloom is the author of Come to Me, a National Book Award finalist; A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You, nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Love Invents Us; Normal; Away, a New York Times bestseller; and Where the God of Love Hangs Out. Her stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize Short Stories, The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction, and many other anthologies here and abroad. She has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, Slate, and Salon, among other publications, and has won a National Magazine Award. She teaches creative writing at Wesleyan University.
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Lucky Us is the story of a patchworked family: two sisters (by different mothers), their “blithe, inscrutable, crooked father,” and their various acquaintances who become new patchworked families — all manipulating and scheming their way through the 1940s US of A. This is voluptuous American writing. Like the family, the story is patchworked — the pieces, not necessarily linear, but when put together, they tell a more perfect story than tales that are forced into a tight chronological narrative. Events are revealed through a simultaneous tide-in and undertow-out flow of action and letters from the future; the writing voice changes from third person to various different first persons and yet it is never confusing. Why? Because Amy Bloom writes at the pleasure of a muse that is uniquely her own — a truly authentic and organic voice and structure. Bloom’s voice and structure are so naturally honest that they seem easy. But I’ve read writers who I’ve suspected have tried to copy her, and, in their copycat hands, you realize this level of honesty is anything but easy. Amy Bloom copies no one. She writes at the pleasure of her Original Voice. And so few writers find, let alone express themselves in or from their original voices that it seems rare. Maybe that’s just the way it is. An Original Voice is treasure. This book is treasure. I mean that in both an emotional and physical way. I found myself running my hands over the physical book — the lush colors and embossed type on the cover, the exquisite interior design and thick matte, deckle-edge paper (Susan Turner, designer), a reprise of the cover art in endpaper illustrations (Deborah Van Auten), and even a red detail on the top and bottom edges of the inner spine: this book — Bloom’s text and designers’ interpretation — is complete, cohesive, sensuous art. I read it as slowly as I could, rereading passages, not for the reasons I usually do — because a writer is “being literary” and therefore incomprehensible. I reread because I was savoring it, the way you would incredible food that you want to taste for as long as possible before swallowing and digesting it. Here’s a morsel, spoken by the younger sister, Evie, about her job telling fake fortunes in a beauty salon: “If you’d asked me what I understood about fortune-telling, I would have told you that no one came to see someone like me because they were happy. I would have said, People come because they are so frightened, they wake up in a sweat. They look into the well of their true selves, and the consequences of being who they are, and they’re horrified. They run to my little table to have me say that what they see is not what will happen.” Filled with real human beings and out-of-left field gallows humor, Lucky Us is a masterpiece.
Funny, ironic , tongue-in-cheek, sad,--all these can be used to describe the story of Eva who is constantly the victim of circumstances created by the people she loves and trusts . The narrator changes frequently and this adds to the interest of the 40's setting and moves the plot along. Eva goes from a little girl left on her father's doorstep to a self reliant woman who takes charge of her life. I found this to be a very good read--will try this author again.
This story takes place a little before my time, but based on my memories of my parents and their contemporaries I suspect that the much less buttoned-down culture that's portrayed in this story is pretty much on the mark. In the pre-1950's, people could re-invent themselves at whim and out of necessity. That's where the fascination lays for me, aside from the fact that Eva is such a great character to hang a story on. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
I was initially drawn to this book intuitively, I did not understand know why but I am surely glad I decided to pick it up. I haven't loved a book like I loved this one in a long time. If you love to read emotionally intelligent books that cover many types of relationships and the hardships and hopes we all deal with, pick this up.
See full review @ The Indigo Quill . blogspot . com Special thanks to Netgalley and Random House for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. After receiving this book for review, I had heard good things about it on NPR. The reviews for Lucky Us are all over the place, so you may just have to read it yourself to decide what you think about it. It's definitely a unique work, and if you like a lot of dynamic and don't mind some explicit storytelling, then you will enjoy it. One reviewer didn't seem too impressed, and especially did not find the connection between the cover art and the pages that lie behind it. Related or not, the absurdity of a lion and a zebra stacked and balanced on a tight rope was appealing to me, but then again, my phone case has elephants flying by hot air balloon. Lucky Us is a story of two girls, Eva and Iris, who blindly feel their way through life after emerging from their dysfunctional and abandoned family unit. We are then catapulted into a series of quasi-unrelated events that somehow lead these girls from one experience to the next (and the reader isn't entirely sure how they got there). Iris is an emerging starlet who carries the potential to be America's next sweetheart. In the hype of Hollywood's glamour, she begins experimenting with her sexuality and the reader suddenly finds themselves in the center of several scandalous sexcapades. Needless to say, this is not a family-friendly book. Iris is betrayed by her fellow starlet and femme-fatale lover and is banished from the limelight forever. Eva, on the other hand, is the conventional one who lives in Iris' shadow, but she is also the storyteller and gives us a glimpse into the quiet-but-fierce persona of her own. She may not be another pretty face, but she definitely has a strong stomach, and so the reader learns to admire her through her narrative. This book possesses an exceptional level of realism and artistry that will leave you dazed and charmed all at once. Truly, it's a ripple effect of serial events that keeps the reader's attention because of its unpredictability. It's impossible to guess the ending or what is going to come next, so be prepared to adapt quickly and spend moments wounded and thrilled simultaneously. Because of this, you can't help but feel dynamic attachments to the characters. It's almost comedic how bizarre and jarring it all is. There are times when the plot seems to be in utter chaos, traveling around in strings weaving out and in between, but in the end they enter twine together to become a masterful design. If you enjoy a story that hybrids historical and modern society, and names its chapters after vintage song titles, then you'll love this book. Not to mention the mystery cover that leaves you both intrigued and scratching your head!
If I want to learn how to turn a phrase, and fill my life with words and sentences that will make your world spin, I shall to turn to Amy Bloom. If I want to fill my world with characters like Iris and Eva, who may not be the most likeable characters on the block, and yet still get you to continue reading, continue your evaluation of a novel all the way to the end, I shall turn to Amy Bloom. If I want to find a historical novel during the period of the Holocaust, where the world was filled with despair and hate, and yet find some token of goodness to keep your spirits up, I shall turn to Amy Bloom. If I want to hold onto hope even as I turn my head away, and find myself somehow lost along the road that never ends, I shall turn to Amy Bloom. If I want to think about a story after I have finished a novel, where worlds have collided, and my feelings have not subsided, I shall turn to Amy Bloom. If I want to hear phrases that speak and words that sing in a compact tale of less than 260 pages, I shall turn to Amy Bloom. If I want rich characters, filled with thought, and dialogue that’s both realistic and possibly experimental, I shall turn to Amy Bloom. If I want to call myself lucky, or maybe refer to ourselves as LUCKY US, I shall turn to Amy Bloom. And if you want to read a familial saga told over a period of years with strong women and even stronger prose, maybe you should too. I received this book for free through NetGalley. Robert Downs Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator
I was sad when this ended. The characters were not typical and the time span covered was truly shown through her characters facing different challenges
Lucky Us is the story of the lives of half-sisters, Eva and Iris, after Eva’s mother left her at her fathers house and disappeared. I found the story itself very interesting but was let down by the execution. It jumped around in a disconnected way and left me wondering what was happening at times. The characters were very bland I didn’t dislike them or like them, I felt nothing. I feel Eva’s character didn’t develop. She was a clingy 12 year old at the beginning of the story, following Iris around and doing everything for her, and even though she aged throughout the novel she was still clingy and lack lustre at the end. I was glad at the end that I did manage to stay with it and on reflection I think that Iris was the perfect self indulgent 1940’s actress.
One of the best books I have read in a long time, and I read a lot. It shows that we all need a little (or a lot) of help from our friends.
I didn't much care for this. Maybe it's because I had a hard time identifying with any of the protagonists or maybe it's because many of their actions seemed totally unbelievable. It certainly isn't a book I'd be interested in re-reading.
This author writes in a very appealing witty style. The book is filled with the ususal modern novel - the gay character, the bashing of religion (Jews, Catholics, and overall believing), the character that is above racisism, ethnic stero typing, the dig at the political arena (only one way - slam and run), and the formula goofy family. I am not sure if like a lot of current published novels this was required or this gifted writer took these ideas and cleverly made a funny novel about them. Even the cover is absurb. Hopefully you will read this an make a check list of the latest in what is suppositvely in. This is a funny story - made even funnier by the author's witty way dealing with stupid current requirements written and may be required in so many of the current published books. You can see this author must understand why self published books are on the rise. Last, I challenge you to read and make a laugh list of your own.
Having read a number of Bloom's earlier novels, I had no doubts that I would enjoy her latest also. However, I believe I purchased this newest one partially due to the illustration on the book's cover! As I began reading page after page of this mind and heart-grabbing novel I kept looking for something that would connect the story with the strange graphic of a lion walking a tightrope with a zebra standing on its back-- but I never found it. Needless to say, the story is as captivating as the book's imaginative cover and is true BLOOM through and through. I'd highly recommend getting on that tightrope with lion and zebra and stepping ever so assuredly thru a most mesmerizing tale that as far as I can see, has no connection to any animals.