Lucky Us, Amy Bloom, Random House, 2014, 256 pp
Amy Bloom just never lets me down as a reader. Lucky Us was the last book I finished in 2014 and it was an auspicious moment when I did. 2014 turned out to be a rough reading year for me: personal issues which possessed my attention, illness, eye surgeries. All I wanted to do was read but sometimes all I could do was play Solitaire on my iPad.
So ending my reading year with a book so satisfying, so aligned with my current views about life, actually I must say, so perfect, reassured me that I could still consider myself a voracious reader but better yet, still be one.
Mainly with Amy Bloom for me, it is about the characters. All are flawed, none are completely admirable, but some manage to live and love and create in spite of their flaws. I also think she gets it that no matter how wonderful a person might be, what matters is how that person deals with the people around her or him.
Eva, half sister to Iris, was the gem among a parade of weak or disreputable or self-serving folks. She was abandoned by her mother, a single mom, a one-time lover of Eva's father. Dumped on her father's doorstep, she and Iris, whose mother has just died, form one of those deep bonds which aid survival but are also in ways dysfunctional.
It is the 1940s. The story travels from Ohio to Hollywood to Long Island. The characters' relationships span from Brooklyn to London. They help each other, betray, rescue, and love each other. Eva is fearless, Iris is reckless. The story could have gone for hundreds of pages and broken your heart.
But it is a short novel, a mere 256 pages. A very artful compression of time, incident, and emotion. I was left not with despair but delight. We are human, we get by or we don't, there are an infinite number of variations on how to live.
And so we go on. Living is a story. Some write them, some read them. I may not get my stories written but I am living a story and I love reading the stories of others.
By the way, each one of the 29 chapter titles is the name of a song from the 1930s and 1940s. I am listening to those songs now after reading the book but I wish I had listened as I read. Go ahead readers. Nerd out on that!
(Lucky Us is available now in hardcover on the shelves at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)