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So Lucky

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From the author of Hild, a fierce and urgent autobiographical novel about a woman facing down a formidable foe.

So Lucky is the sharp, surprising new novel by Nicola Griffith—the profoundly personal and emphatically political story of a confident woman forced to confront an unnerving new reality when in the space of a single week her wife leaves her and she is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Mara Tagarelli is, professionally, the head of a multi-million-dollar AIDS foundation; personally, a committed martial artist. But her life has turned inside out like a sock. She can't rely on family, her body is letting her down, and friends and colleagues are turning away—they treat her like a victim. She needs to break that narrative: build her own community, learn new strengths, and fight. But what do you do when you find out that the story you’ve been told, the story you’ve told yourself, is not true? How can you fight if you can’t trust your body? Who can you rely on if those around you don’t have your best interests at heart, and the systems designed to help do more harm than good? Mara makes a decision, and acts, but her actions unleash monsters aimed squarely at the heart of her new community.

This is fiction from the front lines, incandescent and urgent, a narrative juggernaut that rips through sentiment to expose the savagery of America’s treatment of the disabled and chronically ill. But So Lucky also blazes with hope and a ferocious love of self, of the life that becomes possible when we stop believing lies.

180 pages, Paperback

First published May 15, 2018

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About the author

Nicola Griffith

50 books1,513 followers
Nicola Griffith has won the Los Angeles Times' Ray Bradbury Prize, the Society of Authors' ADCI Literary Prize, the Washington State Book Award (twice), the Nebula Award, the Otherwise/James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award, the World Fantasy Award, Premio Italia, Lambda Literary Award (6 times), and others. She is also the co-editor of the Bending the Landscape series of anthologies. Her newest novels are Hild and So Lucky. Her Aud Torvingen novels are soonn to be rereleased in new editions. She lives in Seattle with her wife, writer Kelley Eskridge, where she's working on the sequel to Hild, Menewood.

* Aud Torvingen

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 367 reviews
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,782 reviews14.2k followers
July 14, 2018
A novel that hits very close to where I am. A book that shows how life changing the diagnosis of a terrible disease can be, affecting all parts of a life. Mara, who works for a non profit, is dignosed with
MS, after an unexplained fall. Her emotions and her life are in free fall. She is angry, bitter and not easy to be around. The treatments make her ill, and are often worse than the disease. She needs to find a new way forward. It will not be easy.

It is at times hard to like Mara, her abrasiveness, bitterness can be off putting, but it is realistic and honest. I can relate since I too have MS as does the author. These are authentic feelings, and it takes a while to adjust to having a life altering disease that has very little in the way of effective treatment.
So hard for me at times but I knew what the book was about and was curious as to how it would be handled, written. This part was well done, often reading like a memoir.

I went down instead of up in my rating because of an element consisting of some horrfic crimes that were introduced relatively late in the book. While I understand what these crimes were meant to show, I felt that there was not enough of the book to build up the intensity, nor fully explore the subject. This part felt very rushed.

Definitely worth reading for it's realistic portrayal of a woman whose whole way of life as well of her sense of identity is in peril.

ARC from Netgalley.
Profile Image for Lex Kent.
1,682 reviews8,877 followers
April 30, 2018
3.75 Stars. I think Griffith is a pretty brilliant writer so when I see a new book by her I will absolutely read it. This was a tough read. It was even harder to read than I expected it to be. It is an unfiltered look into what a horrible disease MS is.

I have to admit I didn’t know much about multiple sclerosis. It wasn’t until about two years ago I read a book that had a main character with MS. Since then I have read two other books that had characters living with this disease. So Lucky was definitely the grittiest and hardest to read. One thing I learned from this book is it looks like the medicine side-affects are often worse than the actual MS. Plus add the fact that there is no cure, this is one awful disease. It is obvious that Griffith did her research for this. It almost feels more like an autobiography than fiction.

I do have to say I was a little disappointed in the ending. This book is on the shorter side and I felt the ending was a little abrupt. I didn’t expect this big happy ending, that would not have been realistic, but I hoped to see more how the character worked things out.

Griffith is an excellent writer so you will always get a quality written book by her and this was no exception. It is very real and dark at times. This is actually my second very hard read in a row. I need something light and fluffy next. I’m glad I read this and I recommend this to people wanting to know more about MS.

An ARC was given to me by Netgalley, for a honest review.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,115 followers
May 13, 2018
This book reads so much like a memoir I had to keep reminding myself it isn't. The murder plots and shadow creatures are not real.

But everything else probably is, and based on the author's experience. Mara is working as the Executive Director for an HIV non-profit, very successful, and has just parted ways with her wife of 14 years, when she has a fall. It is revealed to be Multiple Sclerosis.

The writing is punchy and I found myself reading it cover to cover. I had always meant to go back and read Hild by the same author, a completely different genre from this one, so I was interested in this, not even knowing what it was. I didn't expect what I found, because I hadn't read anything about it. I think readers who have liked Lisa Genova's books on disease (Still Alice, Inside the O'Briens, Every Note Played, etc.) would devour this, but it has a different kind of intensity: it feels personal.

It feels personal, because it is. The author posts openly on her blog about coming out as queer, and then having to come out with MS later on. The character she writes in So Lucky knows how to mobilize, how to build community, and how to advocate, and it feels like the world beyond this novel has more hope because of it.

I supervise someone with MS, and I also want to say that this book helped me in my understanding of the daily life of this disease.

The author has even created a Spotify playlist to accompany it, which I always love.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me early access to this title through Edelweiss. It comes out May 15, 2018.
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 110 books754 followers
April 12, 2018
Nicola Griffith is one of my favorite authors, one of the authors I'll follow into any genre or subgenre because I know I'm in good hands. This book is no exception. It's short but breathless, propulsive, structured in short sections that convince you not to put it down. This was supposed to be a writing day, but I kept sneaking one more page, two more pages, ah, why not just keep going? Griffith has written a visceral, urgent, taut narrative of a woman attacking a new diagnosis, and the things (literal, figurative, metaphorical) that attack her, and her attempts to keep her humanity, her queerness, her body, her fitness, her friends, her dignity, and her self-identity in a system that is bent on erasing her. In other words, the author has woven a fiction that breathes truth.
Profile Image for Jan.
1,115 reviews29 followers
December 28, 2018
I started out actively engaged with the protagonist as she absorbs her diagnosis of MS, but her one-note response of rage and grievance wore me out, and a serial killer plot line that's introduced later in this short book lost me altogether. Griffith is a strong writer, and I appreciated the book's insights into the experience of living with MS, but I would have preferred the protagonist to have a more nuanced response and the subplot to have been better integrated and fleshed out.
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,156 reviews1,463 followers
December 15, 2018
This was not quite what I expected. I thought it was going to be a lot more speculative than it actually was. It's mostly a realist, visceral tale of a woman's first year after being diagnosed with MS, specifically focused as a kind of character study of Mara. I loved how full of anger she was--at having MS, at the casually ableist world she abruptly collides with, at violence against people with disabilities and/or women--and how Griffith obviously wasn't concerned with making her likable. Her relationships with the women in her life felt very real to me, both her (ex)wife she has just got divorced from but is still close with (how lesbian!) and her old friend who she's had sexual chemistry with for years.

I wish the psychological thriller and speculative aspects had been more central to the book, but I think that's my only complaint. This was my first Nicola Griffith book, but it won't be my last!
Profile Image for Jerrie.
990 reviews130 followers
January 20, 2019
This was a very strange book with some surreal elements, some crime elements, and some moments of madness. The MC is hit with multiple major setbacks at practically the same time - her wife leaves her, she is diagnosed with MS, and loses her job. The MC is understandably very angry, and a lot of the book is devoted to how she channels that anger, not always in a good way. There are some strange supernatural elements to the story, but those may be related to the MC’s impaired mental state due to the medications she is taking. It’s hard to say. Ultimately, this was an angry little book with an often unreliable narrator and a lot of seemingly unrelated situations. I also did not appreciate some of the derogatory language used to describe the disabled here or the helpless portrayal of people with MS.
Profile Image for - ̗̀ DANY  ̖́- (danyreads).
258 reviews92 followers
April 16, 2018
. : ☾⋆ — 4 ★

arc provided from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (thank you Farrar, Straus and Giroux!!)

this was super interesting!! it was a little crazy at times but i say that in the most tender and wholesome way you can think of. it really isn’t like anything i’ve read before!!

So Lucky follows our main character Mara, who, in the span of a week, loses her wife, her relevance in the workplace, and her physical health. we follow Mara and her slow descent into madness, as well as her struggle with grieving over her relationships, her job, and her health.

So Lucky isn’t exactly a ‘fun’ book to read, (Mara goes through a lot including sudden bursts of paranoia and panic and intense self-hatred), but it was definitely an eye opening experience. there’s something in the way Nicola Griffith narrates Mara’s day to day life as a disabled young woman in such exquisite and sharp detail, that it becomes hard to put this book down, despite how aggressive Mara is as a character. she might come off that way, but she’s also just as confident, strong, hard-working, and a total boss.

the writing style blew me away!! it’s hard to find out there, but there really is a way to balance just a tiny bit of purple prose with a fantastic main character as a narrator, and the end result is totally worth it. i’ll definitely be checking out some of Nicola Griffith's other books after this!!!

this book is really short and pretty matter-of-fact, so i don’t really have much else to say about it other than it’s a fantastic read. total rec if you’re trying to push yourself out of a reading slump.
Profile Image for Agirlcandream.
686 reviews4 followers
May 24, 2018
A fictional novel clearly written by someone with an intimate knowledge of the vagaries of Multiple Sclerosis. The spectrum of emotions play out as Mara struggles to come to terms with the rapid progress of her disease. The author points out that sense of “other” someone in a wheelchair feels, how challenging the simplest of tasks become and how demoralizing and frustrating the lack of care and options are for those afflicted with MS. She is quick to point out how big Pharma benefits and caters to MS charities while those who suffer with the disease struggle to pay for drugs with unknown beneficial effects.

Powerful and insightful look at the monster in the room and one woman’s effort to deal with her own fears and loneliness.

ARC received with thanks from publisher via NetGalley for review.

Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,682 reviews347 followers
January 6, 2020
Nicola Griffith writes really well, and I was so pleased to see a short book on the hold shelf -- but this is an angry book. Not one to read straight through, for me anyway. Not a comfort read!

She was diagnosed with MS further back than I realized, and I assume the pain, shame and general unpleasantness of learning one has an incurable, degenerative disease is accurately portrayed. It's bad. Even worse, she was very active, very physical before she got sick. Her protagonist (alter ego?) is invited to be the keynote speaker at a disabled-rights conference. While there, she is ignored, tripped over and basically invisible. And she is having odd visions out of the corner of her eyes, perhaps from the nerve damage, perhaps from something else.

But she buys a kitten! A feisty little female (of course!) she calls Miz Rip. Because, well, a kitten! One good thing, in her life gone to shit....

There's a graphic, disturbing description of the torture and murder of an MS victim in his home. Mara, the protag, realizes the victim was an online friend. Then there's a bungled burglary of another online MS friends apartment, and then another murder. Mara thinks the victims might have been picked out from a mailing list she compiled. She has trouble getting the police to listen to her, until after the second murder.

The ending, where Mara pushes through her fears to get on with her life, is a bit pat and rushed-feeling. But then, that's pretty much what the author has done, and has (I think) come to terms with her disease as best she can. What else could she do? Curl up and die? Not Nicola Griffith!

So. First-rate writing, cool characters and some great lines. And her kitten! And short. Brevity counts for a lot.
Profile Image for Rachel.
584 reviews69 followers
May 14, 2018
If you ever thought that a short novel can’t pack a powerful punch, SO LUCKY will prove you wrong. This slim novel is a rich story about a woman’s battle with her body and her mind. Nicola Griffith’s prose is beautiful and strong and she deftly weaves such a compelling tale of a woman dealing with MS and an able-ist society that ignores the needs of those with disabilities. I couldn’t put the novel down—so so good.
Profile Image for Det. Nidhi.
138 reviews10 followers
May 25, 2018
This was the first book I've read by this author and I am hooked...

I'm not quite sure what I was thinking when I decided to give this book a try. It was mostly the main plot which caught my eye - 'Multiple Sclerosis'. Its a diseases of your immune system where your own cells attack your neurons leading to a myriad of symptoms. It can either be chronic or a remitting relapsing type, wherein the remitting one will appear randomly throughout your life, then go into remission and then the attack may hit you again. The chronic one is the more dangerous one which will lead to death soon after the diagnosis. (Pardon my enthusiasm, neurology is a favourite subject of mine)

So anyways the lead in the story is diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis, which leads to the unraveling of her life. As is the case with most neurodegenerative disorders, there isn't a proper cure for MS. As my professor would say, 'We know so much about the nervous system and yet we know nothing'. The only way to manage your symptoms is to take immunosuppressants, and hope that you get better.

Most of the drugs for neurological disorders are mostly on trial and also really expensive. We see firsthand how this affects Mara, as she struggles with treatment modules which suit her budget.

I loved the way the author wasn't sugar coating anything. Everything was in your face, for instance, the part where Mara discusses about lack of awareness about multiple sclerosis which leads to lesser funding and thus lesser relief for patients.

Its sad really, how a disease changes your life. Mara loses her job, is recently divorced and is thrown into a harsh life all alone with a dreadful disease. The hallucinations, the fear, the anger, the frustration and the disappointment about life in general is a commonly seen occurrence in people with neurological disorders. There is also a plot about hate against cripples and it was really well placed in the plot. Kudos to the author.

There were also a few inquisitive things, like how there are theories about HIV positive people not being subjected to MS. As a student of science I love such questions and this book struck a chord with me.

If you love real to life honest books, then you must read this. The author has put in a lot of effort and it's really appreciated, as such books are the ones building awareness about such conditions. The stigma attached to these diseases has to go and that can be only achieved by increasing awareness.
Profile Image for Nemo ☠️ (pagesandprozac).
879 reviews411 followers
May 23, 2018
"It's aiming to kill you."

i was so lucky (ha!) to get accepted for this on netgalley. this was an absolutely brilliant book and now i want to recommend it to everyone, although you should note that there's content warnings for violent burglary, murder, and hate crime; they're all reported rather than shown on-page but it's something to be aware of.

at first, it seemed like a pretty straightforward book with pretty straightforward themes. our main character, mara, has just got divorced from her wife and just begun to strike up a relationship with someone else, and has just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. for the first third or so, you think that's what it's going to be about, a contemporary-realistic sort of book about coming to terms with your MS.

until it wasn't.

suddenly comes hints of magical realism in that specific, dark variant of magical realism where neither you nor the protagonist knows if something vaguely supernatural is going on or if your mind is going a bit haywire on you.

and then - it almost becomes a thriller. the tension, the fear, the knowledge that there is someone, or something, or both out there. coming.

aiming to kill.

but is it? you don't know. but you aren't taking any chances.

the book was also ultimately positive about disability despite showing the anger and frustration that disabled people experience, and thank god for that, because if i have to read another book about disabled people that ends on a "and everything sucked because they were disabled" note i'm going to launch myself into the entire fucking sun. but this was written by someone with MS (i believe?) so it avoids that tone.

basically: read this. you need it in your life. trust me. it's short, but by god does it pack a punch.
Profile Image for David.
619 reviews140 followers
March 13, 2019
As others have said, this is a miscellany of genres with illness memoir, social justice narrative, psychological thriller, true crime, and even the occult all jostling under the umbrella of auto fiction. The writing is excellent; the results are mixed. There was a lot I appreciated and little I loved. The book suffers most from a telescoping of the timeline which (for me) cheapened the many messages being delivered.
Profile Image for Doug.
2,046 reviews744 followers
December 19, 2018
Having worked in the disability community myself for a dozen years prior to retirement, this certainly rang true as an authentic story to me, and knowing the author drew upon her own experiences as a recently diagnosed person with MS proved her adherence to the PWD rallying cry of 'Nothing about us without us'. If it strayed a bit towards the clinical at times, and the thriller/murder mystery element didn't work quite as well, the story moves quickly and keeps the reader involved. It's also nice to have a story with a lead lesbian character in which her sexuality is a given and more or less peripheral to the main story.
Profile Image for ns510.
391 reviews
February 22, 2019
“It’s a strange thing to feel a body you know change inside without moving, a kind of shrinking away, like the sides of a cooling cake.”
So I had no idea what I would be reading, having stayed away from the blurb, but the cover indicated ‘a sophisticated thriller’. I suppose you could extrapolate and say yes, it is kind of a psychological thriller in some ways, but it is mainly a story of a young and successful queer woman who loses a lot in the space of a short time - her relationship, her job, her health. Imagine how life-changing it must be to happily go about living your life one day, safe in the secure illusion of your own invincibility, and then living the next finding that your body has failed you. The diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis was understandably shattering, both physically and mentally. This is written from an #ownvoices perspective as the author herself shared the same experiences, and this is how the novel came to be. I liked it ok but didn’t love it in the end. As a reader, it felt like the book was too many things at once without successfully being any one thing. But I appreciated it as a medium for the writer to process her personal experiences and share this with us, and it’s probably best read in that vein.
Profile Image for Neale .
310 reviews143 followers
January 3, 2019
Mara is a fighter. Beaten up in a bar by two men when she was twenty-two, Mara decided then and there to never be a victim again. Never feel weak and frail at the mercy of anybody or anything. She took up martial arts and forged herself into a strong, confident, successful woman. However, all of this strength and confidence cannot help her when she is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Overnight her world is turned upside down. For me this book is all about fear. Multiple sclerosis, besides the fear of the disease itself, brings many fears. The fear of slowly losing your physical and motor controls. The fear of losing your independence. The fear of losing your dignity. Mara must confront these fears while fighting the disease. The author, Nicola Griffith, suffers from multiple sclerosis herself, so there is a real feeling of authenticity around Mara’s struggle. The symptoms, the drugs, the side effects of these drugs, the systems that are in place to help and their inadequacies. I loved this part of the book it really worked for me. What didn’t work for me was the sub-story of a killer out there killing people with multiple sclerosis. It just seemed fanciful and out of place with the main narrative. I did enjoy the book. It’s a short, powerful read which gives the reader some insight into what people with multiple sclerosis endure. 3 stars.
Profile Image for exorcismemily.
1,265 reviews335 followers
May 30, 2018
"I had no idea what lay in my future now."

So Lucky is a unique story. I haven't read anything else in which the main character is dealing with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

This book is raw, and deals with many heavy emotions like uncertainty, rage, loneliness, etc. The main character feels what she feels, and doesn't let anyone else tell her what to do. I felt like her anger at her situation was realistic.

Some elements of this book reminded me of The Sound of Broken Ribs by Edward Lorn - the main character has health issues, and there's an aspect to both that seems paranormal.

I enjoyed reading this quick book, and I would read more from Nicola Griffith. Thank you so much to McD Books for sending this to me!
Profile Image for Ruthiella.
1,508 reviews49 followers
February 4, 2019
So glad to have finally read Nicola Griffith! So Lucky is a short but intense account of a woman’s struggle to adjust to a new normal after being diagnose with Multiple Sclerosis. At under 200 pages, this was a very quick read. The protagonist, Mara, is often very bitter and aggressive and I liked how the book challenged the reader to empathize with her despite her bitterness. I also really enjoyed the more speculative aspects of the book. MS can affect a person’s mental perceptions and it was interesting, if occasionally terrifying, to figure out what was real and what was a symptom of the disease. READ FOR TOB 2019
Profile Image for Vigasia.
425 reviews21 followers
February 14, 2021
Interesting look on a person who finds out she has MS and how she deals with it. The protagonist is very likeable she deals with a lot of anger not only because of illness but everywhere she looks, she thinks people treat her as inferior and she has no reason for this. Also the ending was terribly rushed.

3,5 stars
Profile Image for Alison Hardtmann.
1,294 reviews2 followers
March 16, 2019
Mara has a great life. She's in a relationship and they live in a cute condo. Her job with a large AIDS non-profit gives her recognition and challenges and she's passionate about martial arts. Then, in a few days, it all collapses. Her partner leaves her for another woman and then she is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), an unpredictable and disabling disease, which progresses rapidly, exhausting her, rendering her unable of continuing with the physical activity she loves. She loses her job and is quickly isolated, home alone, but also isolated by the distance that people put between themselves and the disabled.

In So Lucky, Nicola Griffith takes a strong, focused and self-focused woman and shows what becoming disabled does to a person. Mara is a fighter, and she's quick to turn her attention and experience to helping ms patients advocate for themselves by starting her own non-profit organization.

But this is not, despite the title, an inspiring book about a woman who overcomes odds or who learns acceptance. Mara is angry and her rage, which is open and uncontrolled, is an impressive thing. I'm used to men's rage. There are entire movie franchises and book series based on a man's rage at an injustice done to a woman he fancies, but here is a woman angry about what has happened to her and not about to sit home and suffer quietly. So Lucky not a comfortable book to read, nor is it a perfect book, but it is a worthwhile book.
Profile Image for Judy.
1,710 reviews295 followers
June 8, 2018

This novel was one of the books I picked up at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor during my vacation in Michigan. I felt so lucky to find it there because it had just been published and my library didn't have it yet.

It is the powerful story of a successful happy woman whose life turned on her in one week. Her wife of many years asks for a divorce and she is presented with a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. Mara, at the time, had thought she had been happily married for 14 years. She was a high level martial artist and the head of a multimillion-dollar AIDS foundation she had been instrumental in building. She was not a victim and then she was.

Over the course of the book, Mara comes to grips with her condition and learns how to adapt her fighting spirit to the hand she has been dealt. It is both heartbreaking and inspiring, also something of a psychological thriller because Mara is fearless and gets herself into plenty of danger. Most of all it is the way Nicola Griffith writes about the gritty daily details that brought this reader to an awareness of what life is really like for a handicapped person in our society. I think it would also bring hope and empowerment to individuals who are disabled or chronically ill.

I suppose the book falls into the category of what these days is called auto-fiction. The author was a self-defense instructor diagnosed with MS who has reinvented herself into a full-time award winning writer. She is the author of one of my favorite books ever, the amazing Hild. She has written seven novels and now holds a PhD in Humanities. She is an unrelenting champion of women.

The bottom line is that she is a strong writer and creator of fierce female characters. I recommend So Lucky to everyone without reservation.
Profile Image for Melody.
2,644 reviews270 followers
May 31, 2018
Blisteringly good. I sat down with this and didn't move until it was finished. This book feels like it was written all in a passionate rush, and I read it the same way. It rang so true, shined light in some very dark corners of the abelist world, and made my heart sing, ultimately. Griffith continues to amaze and delight, no matter what she turns her hand to. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for kari.
608 reviews
August 10, 2018
A nuanced, powerful story written in flowing prose, and while the ending was disappointingly abrupt and direct, the emotional arc of the novel was just amazing.
Profile Image for Ellis.
1,217 reviews137 followers
June 14, 2018
Last night I sat down to start this around six and finished it before nine. I could have done without the plot because given the way the book ends, I'm not sure if it was meant to be a metaphor or what - if it all really happened, the denouement was a bit too pat, and the horrors Mara faces from the people around her as a result of MS are stomach-churning enough without needing to add to the mix. That said, this is a remarkable book that's going to be eye-opening for a lot of people, because in my opinion disability inclusion is a hurdle that otherwise progressive people/orgs have trouble clearing, hell, don't even realize that it's something they need to be aware of. Example time: the system I work for would certainly call itself inclusive and welcoming to both staff and patrons of every skin color, creed, and sexual orientation and in fact uses the tagline "free and equal access to all" but there are few disabled people on staff and numerous issues just at my branch with accessibility for the elderly and non-able bodied, like a Push To Open button for the front door that only works sometimes and a shiny new elevator redesign that featured a silver call button on an identical silver background that was impossible for a lot of patrons to see, which is, quite frankly, embarrassing (we solved that by making a yellow vinyl circle in the Idea Lab to go around the call button, thank you Idea Lab!). If your shit isn't designed for people who use wheelchairs or walkers or canes, can't walk long distances easily, can't see well, etc., etc., you ain't as inclusive as you think and you need to read this book, weird plot nonwithstanding.
Profile Image for Bob Lopez.
771 reviews35 followers
November 28, 2018
Seemingly autobiographical novel about a woman who, upon her impending divorce, is diagnosed with MS. The book goes to great lengths to show us our protagonist is not some wilting flower--she is a powerful woman, at the head of a non-profit that advocates for those with AIDS. But especially when, after her diagnosis and a vulgar and inappropriate email--the result of which was her dismissal--she goes a a a calculated twitter rant, and starts a movement and advocacy work for sufferers of MS. She's quick, she's smart, she's ruthless, and she has non-profit complete with funding up and running in no time. But really, the book is about her struggle to come to terms with her limitations (knowingly coming to terms with the limits of her body; unknowingly coming to terms with the way her mind was dealing with the diagnosis), going so far as to unconsciously personify the disease as a monster that is on the move that is coming for her--which was an odd choice for the book as it turns out there was an actual "killer" coming for her, at least theoretically. She conflates the disease with her coming to terms with the disease and basically grits it out. The real killers are caught, and she confronts her own inner-tormentor...

"My monster grinned at me. And flexed.
It's not me, It's MS.
'I see you,' I said. 'I know what you are.'
And I did. This was not MS. This was helplessness and self-loathing and second-class citizenship."

She is a character with a lot of anger--at having to exist in a patriarchal society at all, and now, post-diagnosis, having to bear slights both real and imagined due to that illness.

Mara is a fun character, but this book was all over the place, and I feel like it couldn't get settled.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Dianah.
591 reviews47 followers
December 18, 2018
This novel/auto-fiction didn't exactly pan out the way I'd hoped. It had a really weird secondary story, which I thought at first was so odd that it was going to be amazing, but it just wasn't. The whole book felt oddly superficial and depthless, which is the exact opposite of what I'd expected. Parts of it were really well done and it's a quick read, but overall, I wasn't thrilled. 😕
Profile Image for Pam Holzner.
676 reviews45 followers
April 17, 2020
I got excited about reading So Lucky after I finished re-reading Ammonite. I thought it was a memoir written by Griffith after her Multiple Sclerosis (MS) diagnosis and there certainly was plenty there about disability, about the treatments, about the treatment of disabled people in society.

Unfortunately it is also a suspense/horror story but reading the current news gives me a sufficient daily dose of both.

The main character is an angry person that I am sure I would not have liked before or after diagnosis. The story is full of ugly vignettes about people being mistreated, robbed, murdered, etc. This is not a world I want to live in.

Eventually I noticed that the title is So Lucky: A Novel. Oh. So not a memoir. It's an autobiographical novel and I'm sure there is plenty that Griffith pulled from her own experiences but thankfully I can pretend that the serial killings are just from her imagination. I did wonder that the main character's name is Mara. Is Griffith a pen name? Call me slow.

The story ends with a kind of epiphany where Mara refuses to be "less than" and refuses to be a victim. It's very dramatic but also feels somewhat hollow since we've spent the whole book with her being both of those things and raging against her new reality.

Of course Griffith's command of language shines throughout. And I'm sure the pacing was just right (if you like that kind of story). And given how much I didn't like Mara, I clearly can't fault her ability to create a convincing three-dimensional character.

But -- overall I was hoping for something enlightening without the made up violence and without the vitriol.

As someone who is getting older, I can see that I am no longer what I once was. Attributes of my reality that I took for granted are no longer guaranteed and must be chased after -- things like good sleep and being able to do chores like house painting without injury. And I expect this process to only get worse as I (hopefully) continue to age. From my perspective MS has many features in common with strokes (the sudden inability of your brain and nervous system to function properly). And I know that heart attacks are usually followed by weakness and fatigue. Most of us will (also hopefully) never get MS but we will face aging and its accompanying limitations.

I had hoped that this book would be a model for how to approach that unwanted shore but the text fell short for me. In wanting to create a dramatic story, Griffith's heroine is generally not someone to emulate. Granted that in the end, she decides not to be a victim but I found the ending to be too little, too late.

Perhaps I'll get lucky and Griffith will write a memoir someday.
Profile Image for lauraღ.
1,589 reviews76 followers
August 31, 2022
We. There was no we when it came to pain.

Mara's wife just left her, her best friend who she has feelings for is moving across the world, and she was just diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. A very frank look at ableism, disability justice and love through the eyes of a woman whose life and body is rapidly changing in a world that doesn't care about disabled people. I loved the perspective, and the fact that she comes from a fund-raising, HIV/AIDS-awareness campaigning background. I have to admit; I liked the book better in the beginning, when it was mostly just vibes, Mara's chronicle of every stage of her illness, her thoughts about love and friendship and her ex-wife, her complicated relationship with Aiyana, all of the little indignities of ableism that she's becoming aware of. When actual plot stuff started happening, I was less interested. Not that said plot stuff and all the conversations it brought up weren't important, but the way it was written made it feel less realistic, even if nothing that was happening was unbelievable. This book dealt in fact; important facts! But, idk. I'll always maintain that certain things don't need to be written about with subtlety and craft and beautiful prose to have merit, and ableism is one of those things. But I also just didn't enjoy the execution of this as much as I was in the beginning.

Listened to the audiobook as read by the author, which was pretty okay. This is still a book I can easily recommend (especially since I don't think I've ever read another book about a character with MS by an author with MS). I look forward to reading more of Griffith in the future.

Content warnings:
Profile Image for Saya.
35 reviews16 followers
January 11, 2019
Spoilers ahead...

I actually really enjoyed reading this book and felt invested in the characters and their stories. Plus, the writing was excellent.

But then you know what happened? The sub-plot about the killers. Ugh. At first I thought it was well done and fed into the narrative about Mara being a bit paranoid about victimization and being extra sensitive to that due to the MS diagnosis. However, the ending had me rolling my eyes. The cops call, "You cracked the code on the killers. But we've got the bad guys, so thanks for that." Then immediately following, Mara confronts her shadow fears and.....THE END. It felt forced. It felt like the author got to the point where she was like, "Okay, so how do I hurry up and end this book in 5 pages?"

The ending was a huge let down considering how much I had enjoyed the rest of the book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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