LUCKY US Drifting through Life in the 1940s (Audio Book Review)





LUCKY US by Amy Bloom CoverAmy Bloom
Random House July 29, 2014
E-Book, Hard Cover, Audio (Length 7:18)

Audio Book provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own.

“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 the story of teenage half sisters Eva and Iris in this brilliantly written, deeply moving, and fantastically funny novel by the beloved and critically acclaimed author of Away. 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. With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine through a landscape of big dreams, scandals, betrayals, and war. Filled with memorable characters and unexpected turns, Lucky Us is a thrilling and resonant novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, and the pleasures and inevitable perils of family life. From Brooklyn’s beauty parlors to London’s West End, these unforgettable people love, lie, cheat, and survive in this story of our fragile, absurd, heroic species.



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square "my take"Wryly narrated by Alicyn Packard, I enjoyed this unlikely tale of half-sisters, their father, their very, very good friends and their lovers, landladies and employees. I loved her delivery of ironic line after line.  At a time when people could reinvent and invent themselves, before everything got so specialized, licensed and regulated — a bootlegger could become a college professor and then something else. A teenage talent show winner could be a starlet and discover her sexuality, and a young girl, intelligent but without means or direction, can drift through strange situations a rolling stone, but the moss gathering variety.

This is literary fiction, and looks at love in a lot of forms. It also looks at issues surrounding bias against homosexuals in mid-century Hollywood (I call this LGBT Issues in my icons). With the exception of one scene where it is absolutely in context, there’s no graphic sex. The clothes come off but most of any interlude occurs off page.

But it’s hard to say this is about anyone thing, love, families of the most unconventional nature, acceptance, loyalty, tragedy, getting along. I think there are two “umbrella” themes: moral ambiguity and chosen family. These sisters make a conscious choice to be together. And, then through their lives seem to collect people. But there really is something askew.  Bloom really captures the era, the atmosphere, its complicated simplicities. The oxymoron I just used is, I believe, apt: personally things were simply what they were, but in combination they caused large life changes.They could choose a profession, steal a car, declare themselves an educated person.  At the time it seems one could do any number of things that would be difficult to accomplish today (for non-hackers).  But acting on impulse, one action could alter the lives of so many.

I thought the narration was excellent, but I am not sure a book told in this way:  in chapters, letters and vignettes, is best shown in the audio format. I found it hard to understand the complicated relationships between characters and who was speaking, reading , writing, and when it was happening.  And this has more to do with the type of writing in combination with the form of delivery than it has to do with either item on its own.

The story is told in letters, as Eva’s first person recollections and occasionally those of others.  The format is unconventional but I believe it works rather beautifully. It’s a story you will think about long after you close the cover on its text (or turn off your listening device) and its characters and their stories will leave you wondering and imagining their futures.

Highly Recommended.