Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
|Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A compelling tale based on searches for better, for love and for belonging as a Mexican illegal migrant and a middle class Asian-Californian are brought together and torn apart by a baby boy. A 2017 must read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 480||Date: January 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
Solimar wants more from her life than her Mexican home can offer and now she's 18, she can go find it. Her target is to get to the USA, a target so blinding that she doesn't realise what reaching out for it will cost. Meanwhile Kavya is living the American dream. She's rich in friendship, family, a loving husband and life prospects and yet Kavya has a baby-shaped hole in her world. The problem is that there's only one baby for both of them… Lucky boy!
American author Shanthi Sekaran teaches creative writing and with this novel shows she can practice what she preaches. Here what appears to be a tug of love story in synopsis, is actually a great deal more. Shanthi incorporates topical themes with a can't-look-away edge that ensures the book is glued to our hands and, by the end, to our memories.
There are so many interesting points about the book, I don't know where to begin. (It's the sort to keep many book clubs going for months!) For instance it's interesting that Soli escapes Mexico because she wants more rather than to escape abject poverty. Her parents aren't rich but there's a roof and regular meals. The fact is that Soli is 18 and wants the excitement and advantages lacking in her staid Catholic background. Does this make her any less deserving of a US lifestyle or the dangers ahead? If we believe so before she sets off, by the time the full force of her journey hits us, our minds are changed.
Another interesting facet is that Kavya is also a migrant but has become establishment American. Kavya and husband Rishi's families are Asian with all the closeness and expectations that come from the Indian culture. There's covert (and not so covert) competition around marriage and procreation. Indeed the idea of infertility is as impossible to Kavya's mother as fairies at the bottom of the garden.
Shanthi's wonderfully drip-fed revelations shock and tear at our hearts. I defy anyone to read the paragraph that includes the conception of the baby without feeling that a world of tenderness has been concentrated in a startling economy of words.
Authentic insight drips from every paragraph. On one side we see an 'illegal' trying to earn a living invisibly. On the other we witness a couple who used to love spontaneously now realising they're ruled by calendars, biological timelines and unfulfilled desires, both internal and external. Kavya is living the mechanical routine that goes with fertility calendars whereas Rishi tries desperately to escape by subsuming himself with work.
Then there's Ignacio, the eventual much-loved and much-wanted unwitting prize. While understanding what the prospective winner will gain, we also realise with heart-breaking clarity what the loser will forfeit.
This is a novel that takes us on an emotional journey that's as unmissable as it is powerful – one of THE books of 2017.
(We'd like to thank Putnam for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: For further fiction reading on the subject of immigrants and immigration, we heartily recommend Hinterland by Caroline Brothers. Or perhaps another side of the Mexican maid/middle class American experience in The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar?
You can read more book reviews or buy Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran at Amazon.com.
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