Lucky Us, by Amy Bloom *****

This story is a winner. I defy anyone to read it and not love it! I was fortunate enough to read my copy free of charge from Net Galley, but sooner or later I will have to pony up and pay for Bloom’s work, because having read this little gem, I will follow her anywhere.

The setting is the Depression Era through the end of the second world war; the story takes place all over the United States, from the midwest to California to New York. The protagonist, Eve, and her sister, Iris are girls (and then women) who are what social workers euphemistically call people who have fallen through the safety net–not that much of one existed back then. Their father and Evie’s mother are almost more liabilities than assets, and from almost the get go, they are on their own.

A large cast of secondary but engaging characters weaves its way through the sisters’ adventures, but each is so believable, so palpable that there is never the slightest danger that the reader will mix one up with another, anymore than you might inadvertently mix up your own family and friends. These flawed but fascinating characters often do things that startle us, leave one’s jaw hanging (“Oh no, you DIDN’T just do that!) yet their behaviors are always consistent with what they have said and done before. Just as with a ne’er-do-well relative, I found myself sometimes grimly nodding and saying, “You know, it doesn’t surprise me a bit.”

Eve and Iris see others betray them and commit every possible venial sin and perhaps a few mortal ones into the bargain, and indeed, they themselves become charlatans, thieves, snake oil salesmen (of a sort) in order to survive. All of this is depicted with such a winning narrative, changing perspectives and yet never the overall truth.

In most circumstances, Eve is set apart in her effort, when possible, to do the right thing, and by her loyalty to those she loves best.

Ultimately of course, it is not the storyline or the setting that sets this story apart from whatever other fiction has recently been released. It is the voice, Bloom’s sassy, ironic, and sometimes devilishly understated narrative that hooks the reader, leaves us unable to let go till the last page is turned.

Bloom is an award winner for other work, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if she receives another for this. If I were to compare her work with anyone’s, it would be Fannie Flagg, because of the character development and the whimsy.

In the end,I realized she does not mean the title to be entirely ironic. We are indeed lucky to have even flawed and difficult people in our lives. Loneliness is the ultimate cause of sorrow. Bloom convinced me that I am lucky too. What a wonderful message, and from a truly gifted writer! I can’t wait to read the rest of her work.

 

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