Julie Christine's Reviews > Lucky Boy

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
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When I retrieved Lucky Boy from the holds shelf at the library, I groaned in dismay. It's the July read for my book club, but no one mentioned at our last meeting that it weighs in at nearly 500 pages. My mind went immediately to Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy, which I loved and is admittedly three times longer, but it took me weeks to wend my way through. I didn't have that kind of time or worse, the needed attention span.

Not to worry. Lucky Boy captured me in its opening pages and held me for the scant four days it took to read. Released in early 2017, the novel presciently mirrors the headlines du jour: the travesty at the US-Mexican border of children separated from their parents. Lucky Boy challenges us to consider how to balance the justice and compassion for undocumented migrants with the need for fair and reasonable immigration policies; how to embrace the American-born children, those so-called Dreamers, whose parents left their home and risked their lives to escape poverty and violence. In a culture where ethics, compassion, civility and common sense seem to crumble with each Tweet blasted out from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Shanthi Sekaran's smart and tender novel makes us feel deeply the controversies that newspaper headlines so often sensationalize to the point of rendering us numb.

Lucky Boy shows two disparate facets of the complicated jewel of immigration- the treasure and curse that built this political and economic entity known as the United States. One story centers on Solimar, or "Soli", an 18-year-old undocumented migrant who makes the harrowing journey from Mexico to Berkeley, California. She arrives at a cousin's door, pregnant, tattered, exhausted and with only a few words of English. The other story is that of Kavya and Rishi Reddy, children of Indian immigrants who live comfortable upper-middle class lives. The lucky boy of the novel's title is Ignacio, or "Nacho", Soli's son who is born a few months after her arrival.

With the help of her cousin, Silvia, Soli finds work as a nanny-maid and for a while, she seems to sliding under the radar and into a new life of possibilities. She sends money to her parents in Mexico, she learns English, and she gives birth to a baby boy who her employers allow her to carry around in a sling while she cleans their toilets and dusts their nightstands. Then one day she loses track of their daughter in a playground. By the end of the evening, she is in an immigration detention center, separated from her toddler son.

The Reddy's, living out quiet anguish as unrequited parents in their storybook bungalow, become Nacho's foster parents. Kavya, so desperate to be a mother that the book's pages fairly twist with her longing and frustration, comes to love her new charge, whom she calls Iggy, with a vital, fierce, and visceral passion. She lives in fear that the baby will be taken from her; Iggy's biological mother is a ghost-shadow that looms large over their lives. The guilt over her plight, her loss, and the potential destruction she wields add a sense of urgency to Kavya and Rishi's parenting. The irony of course is that their greatest fear has already been realized by Soli, who spends months in horrific conditions, agonizing over the loss of her child.

To reveal more would be to enter spoiler territory. This is without hesitation a story you should discover on your own. Sekaran treats these thorny, topical issues with lucid empathy and rich characters. She takes time to build these lives, giving even minor characters weight and relevance. Her prose is a joy to read, clear and lovely. Highly recommended.

"Why did people love children that were born to other people? For the same reason they lived in Berkeley, knowing the Big One was coming: because it was a beautiful place to be, and because there was no way to fathom the length or quality of life left to anyone."
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Reading Progress

July 2, 2018 – Started Reading
July 2, 2018 – Shelved
July 8, 2018 – Shelved as: best-of-2018
July 8, 2018 – Shelved as: book-club-selection
July 8, 2018 – Shelved as: contemporary-fiction
July 8, 2018 – Shelved as: latin-america-theme-setting
July 8, 2018 – Shelved as: read-2018
July 8, 2018 – Shelved as: usa-contemporary
July 8, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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Carie Great review! This book had me in a puddle of tears. I too highly recommend this book to others.


Julie Christine Carie wrote: "Great review! This book had me in a puddle of tears. I too highly recommend this book to others." Thank you, Carie!


message 3: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Hi, great review - makes me want to read it. I like the insider's story; the nanny's view point, the maid's v.p. - they provide the realities of what it means to be "the underclass" without power, opportunity, education, security etc.


Maureen I read this book a few weeks ago and loved it. Very talented writer. I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten more exposure and publicity, especially given its relevance to current immigration issues. One of my favorite reads of 2018.


Julie Christine Laura wrote: "Hi, great review - makes me want to read it. I like the insider's story; the nanny's view point, the maid's v.p. - they provide the realities of what it means to be "the underclass" without power, ..."
Thank you, Laura. It's an excellent read- Sekaran really does examine all sides, with grace and balance.


Julie Christine Maureen wrote: "I read this book a few weeks ago and loved it. Very talented writer. I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten more exposure and publicity, especially given its relevance to current immigration issues. One of..." Maureen, I'd never heard of this book- maybe I just wasn't paying attention, but really? It frustrates me to no end that amazing books like this flash and fade. Such a fickle industry. I'm so glad my book club picked it up!


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