Wednesday, August 31, 2016

LUCKY US by Amy Bloom

It’s the 1940s, and Eva’s father Edgar has two families.  When his legal wife dies, Eva lands in Edgar’s household, along with a teenage half-sister, Iris, whom Eva has never met.  Iris could have been downright nasty to Eva, but she’s not.  When Iris decides to sneak off to California to pursue acting, she lets Eva tag along.  Iris’s budding career is cut short, however, when paparazzi catch her in a lesbian love affair.  Edgar’s timely arrival on the scene affords the girls an opportunity to head back east, along with Francisco, Iris’s friend and makeup artist.  At this point the novel becomes a little silly, despite a grave tragedy, as Eva finds her calling temporarily as a fake fortuneteller.  With Edgar, Eva, Iris, Iris’s girlfriend, Edgar’s girlfriend, and a young boy that the girls pluck out of an orphanage, we have a strangely functional family.  Eva and Iris both do some devilish, childish things that would be funny if they didn’t have such dire consequences.  Of course, characters without flaws are not that interesting.  My favorite passages are in letters from Gus, a man who, due to some very unfortunate shenanigans, now lives in Germany, after being buffeted from one bad situation to another.  He makes some sweeping, mind-blowing, post-war observations and generalizations about the Poles, the Ukrainians, and the Brits that I’m afraid I will never forget, whether they’re valid or not.  Gus, who I think is really the conscience of the novel, and Eva are the true actors here, both building a life using false credentials.  They are both poster children for redefining one’s self.

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