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Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

Lucky Us (2014)

by Amy Bloom

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The exploits of an unconventional family during the 1940s. The writing is good but the characters never seemed real and a few times the changes in family circumstances were made so quickly that I thought I had skipped a few pages. ( )
  clue | Sep 20, 2014 |
When Eva’s mother learns that the wife of Eva’s father has died, she decides to visit and see “what might be in it for us”. They drive down and Eva is introduced to her half-sister Iris. While the two girls are chatting, Eva’s mother slips away, leaving behind nothing but her daughter and a small suitcase. For a time, Eva lives with her father and sister, but when Iris decides to run away to Hollywood Eva goes with her. There, Iris begins her ascendancy as a starlet, only to have her dream dashed to pieces when scandal erupts. Joined by their father, the two girls cross the country once more and land in New York City, hoping for a fresh start for their little family.

The book unfolds in a meandering stream where time jumps freely and epistolary chapters drift through. Many of the letters are unacknowledged or never make it to the recipient, so the reader always knows more than Eva, the narrator. The unusual approach to narrative sometimes results in confused and muddled passages.

There’s a lot of unpleasantness in the novel. Perhaps that can only be expected in a novel that opens with a death and an opportunistic woman who abandons her child and then disappears. A father steals his children’s hard-earned money. One sister falls in love and sends an anonymous letter declaiming as a spy the husband of the woman she wants. He’s shipped away to a prison camp and the wife falls into her arms. The other sister helps steal a child from an orphanage so that her sister’s lover can have the baby she always wanted. When tragedy strikes, punishing those who hurt others in earlier chapters, it isn’t cathartic or satisfying. It’s just one more bad thing on the pile.

I believe the bad events leave so little impact because the characters are quite flat. If I had to describe a character in the story – virtually any character – the first word that comes to mind is “selfish”. After that…nothing. Oh, I might come up with another word or two. Iris is selfish, lusty and ambitious. Edgar, the father, is selfish, charming, and deceptive. Eva is selfish and nurturing. It’s like the author was so busy cramming the plot full of events both major and minor that she just ran out of steam when it came to developing the people experiencing them.

There are two lesbian love scenes in the first fifty pages, which were a bit surprising and not my cup of tea, but fine. It’s the sex at the end of the novel that I found rather icky, when -


- when the husband of Iris’ lover returns after year in exile overseas. When she was about thirteen, Eva played cards with him while her sister made love to his wife in the next room. Now, even though the man must be at least three times Eva’s age, they almost immediately start sleeping together. It’s weird. I just can’t shake the shades of pedophilia – was the husband lusting over the girl all those years before as they played cards? Eeew. Or did he just build up a fantasy about this girl – still a kid! – during his long absence? Still eew.

I’ve heard lots of praise for Amy Bloom’s short stories, and there are flashes of brilliance in the turn of a phrase or the painting of a scene. But all of these interesting elements never quite gel into a fully integrated novel. ( )
  makaiju | Sep 19, 2014 |
ucky Us by Amy Bloom: Lucky us to have this book surprising novel -- a series of short chapters in multiple points of view (something I love -- see Before My Eyes and LIE) -- and essentially about what makes us a family.

The story centers on Eva and Iris, half sisters. But no one is what they seem at first. For example, their father presumably a WASP, a literature professor, and a dead-beat is anything but a WASP, a professor, or a truly dead-beat father. All the characters re-make themselves over and over.

Set in the 1940s to the 1950s and traveling from small town Ohio to Hollywood to Great Neck, Long Island, college town, the story unfolds in sometimes improbable ways, but I was sold on these characters.

By the end, I was cheering Eva and Iris and all of them on.
And, the writing is superb. Like I said: Lucky us. ( )
  cabockwrites | Sep 10, 2014 |
Finished in two days (only because I was interrupted on Day 1!). Wonderful tale of two sisters and the family they acquire and lose along a serpentine route from poor to rich to poor to happy. Superb characters, about many of whom the reader truly cares. Wonderful main character, Eva Acton, who ages from about 8 to young adulthood. ( )
  jaaron | Sep 5, 2014 |
Read from August 21 to 24, 2014 — I own a copy

Great story and awesome coverart!! I absolutely loved the convoluted tale of sisters, Eva and Iris, that begins in the late 1930's. I enjoyed Bloom's writing style and found it clever and fresh. This is a story filled with contradiction. The sisters collect people like souvenirs and they manage to form a happy mishmash family despite their habitual cons, lies, and deceit. The characters were likable but severely flawed. I hated them one minute and loved them the next. Overall, this is a winner for me.

Thanks to Goodreads and Random House for this wonderful giveaway.
  MaryEvelynLS | Aug 24, 2014 |
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My father's wife died.
It's good to be smart, it's better to be lucky.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Teenage half sisters Eva and Iris are 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 the sisters 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.… (more)

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