Review: Lucky Us by Amy Bloom Us (2014) by Amy Bloom

Let's start with the cover. It's whimsical, it's fanciful, it's...a bird standing on a zebra standing on a lion standing on a tightrope.

The use of this painting by Deborah Van Auten is particularly appropriate, however, because, like these figures, the characters in Lucky Us are balanced precariously on one another, coming together by chance and relying on one another for love and companionship despite their differences.

Eva and Iris, the half-sisters at the heart of this novel, are thrown together when Iris's mother dies, and their journeys back and forth across the country in search of fame (Iris wishes to be an actress) and then employment, solidify their sisterly bond. And like two kindly spiders (excuse the odd simile) who've spun a web because they know nothing else and accidentally attract numerous other creatures, the sisters gather up a kind of extended family: their own intellectural but hapless father; Francisco and his sisters, who run a hair salon; Reenie and Gus (the former employed as a cook in the house where the sisters work); and Danny, who they spring from an orphanage.

But just as this unlikely family coalesces, the unforeseen pulls them apart, until death, deportation, and self-imposed exile leave Eva, Danny, and Francisco to salvage what's left. Bloom focuses our attention on the twists and turns of Fortune in Eva's work as a fortune teller. Despite having no psychic gift, Eva uses her understanding of human nature to tell her clients what they want to hear, and to comfort them when all they need are words of encouragement.

At first, I found the plot somewhat disorienting, since it jumps around between certain characters' points-of-view and certain years in a seemingly-haphazard way. Throughout, though, we view people and events mostly through Eva's eyes, and the letters written to her by her sister and Gus give us a fuller understanding of what goes into forming a family based on love and loyalty, rather than just blood.

You must read the entire novel to grasp the full arc of the story, and by then you're completely and totally enthralled. Bloom's prose sneaks up on you, disarming but straightforward, clear, precise, and perfectly-pitched. I've already written her name down on my list of Authors Whose Other Books I Will Most Definitely Read.

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