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Lucky Boy
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Amy (asawatzky) | 1687 comments so let's talk about it....


Gwendolyn | 164 comments Am reading it now...about 20% complete. So far, the writing feels forced to me...like the author is trying to write in a literary style by coming up with unusual metaphors and the like. It feels a bit amateur, but I’m willing to give it a shot and push through.


message 3: by Jason (new)

Jason Perdue | 622 comments I made it to 50% and gave up. Very frustrating book.


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Amy (asawatzky) | 1687 comments I'm wary of cracking it... there were positive reviews in the Longlist thread but Jo's comment worried me. My sibling has adopted two black children and drives me absolutely crazy with her seeming inability to see structural racism (and her belief that they 'saved' them). I doubt I can be in any way objective.


Rachel | 123 comments I just finished this on audio last night, which I picked from the longlist (first time I'm in the middle of a book that makes the shortlist). I think a lot of readers here will find it problematic at the minimum.

Thoughts in no particular order:
1) The writing is approachable. The story is linear and easy enough to follow. It was good on audio, probably same as reading it. I'll be able to recall enough of the story later, versus some other literary books that just fall out of my mind a month or two later.

2) The story of the Mexican woman, Soli, has a lot of bad stuff happen to her. To an unbelievable level. It's A Little Life-esque, but with poorer writing. It's harder and harder to be sympathetic of her story if I don't believe it and it feels too fiction-y.

3) The Indian woman, Kavya, is a much more believable, but will be hated by many readers given Jo's/Amy's comments. I liked her side of the story more because it felt real, though now I'm questioning if that's due to my position in life versus the character / situation just being more realistic. This could potentially be an interesting point of discussion in the tournament, so it might be worth reading just to be able to comment different perspectives.

4) The ending sucks. (Super mild spoiler) It basically ends by literally saying: in the end, there is no happy ending for anyone. It's like one of those movies that is better served by ending at the conclusion, rather than 15 minutes of following "where are they now" which is never very satisfying. Just end the book at the real end, authors.


Drew (drewlynn) | 421 comments Rachel wrote: " The Indian woman, Kavya, is a much more believable"

I agree and suspect it's because the author is an Indian-American. She has lived in that culture so she doesn't have to imagine what it would be like.

In spite of being one of the longer books in the Tournament, it's a fast read. I'm a little over halfway through.


message 7: by Jason (new)

Jason Perdue | 622 comments Rachel wrote: "2) The story of the Mexican woman, Soli, has a lot of bad stuff happen to her. To an unbelievable level. "

The convolutions that the plot had to make to put this decent, hard-working person in the ridiculous situation so that they could take her kid was about the last straw for me. I lasted another 15% into the book after that. Forget the fact that this plot development doesn't happen for close to 200 pages even when we all know where this is going about 3 pages in.

Hearing that the ending sucks reassures me about not picking it back up.


Rachel | 123 comments Drew wrote: I agree and suspect it's because the author is an Indian-American. She has lived in that culture so she doesn't have to imagine what it would be like. ..."

I was thinking this too. It would probably be a much better book focusing on only this side and making Kavya seem like a good person and an awful person at the same time. Would have been so much more compelling to have the readers relate and go along with her, only to question their own thought processes behind why it's ok to want a child taken from his mother.


message 9: by Rachel (last edited Jan 05, 2018 11:57AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rachel | 123 comments Jason wrote: "Rachel wrote: "2) The story of the Mexican woman, Soli, has a lot of bad stuff happen to her. To an unbelievable level. "

The convolutions that the plot had to make to put this decent, hard-workin..."


If you're done and don't care about SPOILERS, you are missing the incredibly convoluted way Soli gets the kid back. I can summarize if you want. :)


message 10: by Drew (last edited Jan 11, 2018 05:00PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Drew (drewlynn) | 421 comments This book was a revelation to me. I can't disagree with any of the criticisms but something about it just grabbed me and wouldn't let go. As an older woman with no children by choice, I usually avoid books that are too focused on motherhood because I just don't understand. But this book gave me all the feels! When I read about Kavya and Rishi's struggle with infertility, I ached for them. And the end had me so wound up, I had trouble going to sleep. Did this remind anyone else of Elian Gonzalez?


message 11: by Anne (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anne | 4 comments I was absolutely livid with this book but still couldn’t put it down. I can’t decide how that makes me feel.

My main complaint is that Kavya never ever seems to think about the other woman who loves this child easily as much as she does. There’s no emotional conflict for her surrounding this at all, which seems really unlikely for what we know about the rest of her character. How is it that neither foster parent ever shows a moment of empathy for the child’s birth mother? It seems like a major flaw in the book-one that made me angry at characters I really wanted to empathize with myself.

This topic is happening in real life here all the time, and the nastiness that accompanies it is all based on this same notion: I am best for the child. I don’t need to look at it from anyone else’s point of view. Even though this book is meant to show us how two women are suffering through the same situation, it doubles down on the idea that if we were in that situation, we don’t have to consider anyone but ourselves.

Well-written, yes. Engaging, yes. Infuriating, yes. I’ll be curious to see how it does in the tournament. I’m too close to the topic to guess.


Gwendolyn | 164 comments I just finished this one. It’s a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, there were some serious negatives: (1) the affected writing (clunky metaphors, overblown descriptions, etc.), (2) a couple storylines should have been excised (e.g. the Stratosphere, the Vikram/Preeti situation), and (3) the convoluted series of highly unlikely events near the end (Rishi’s dessert experience stands out). On the other hand, this author set up a heartbreaking moral dilemma and made me empathize with all sides. I’m still thinking about the issues and how I would handle the, as the judge (or, better yet, as the person who makes the laws.) Sometimes there are no 100% “right” answers. This book really made me think about hard questions, and I appreciate that. That’s one of the primary reasons I read books. The book also made me incredibly grateful to have full and unquestioned parental rights over my two children (at least for now). Finally, the novel is quite a page-turner, so I was very entertained (not my primary reason for reading, but still a good reason).


message 13: by Drew (new) - rated it 4 stars

Drew (drewlynn) | 421 comments Anne wrote: "I was absolutely livid with this book but still couldn’t put it down. I can’t decide how that makes me feel.

My main complaint is that Kavya never ever seems to think about the other woman who lov..."


I've already returned this book to the library so I can't check but doesn't Kavya have an aha moment right at the end? Yes, too little, too late but I felt she finally had some empathy for Soli.


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 575 comments Amy wrote: "I'm wary of cracking it... there were positive reviews in the Longlist thread but Jo's comment worried me. My sibling has adopted two black children and drives me absolutely crazy with her seeming inability to see structural racism (and her belief that they 'saved' them). I doubt I can be in any way objective. ..."

Maybe reading Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race would help open her mind, but then again, maybe it would just close it further....


Rosie Morley (rosiemorley) | 40 comments I really liked this book and was surprised to open this thread and see so many negative reactions, although after reading them I can definitely understand the criticisms.

I feel like I've read a lot of unusual, fancy books lately and I think this one just came at the right time, when I needed a break from fancy. It was ordinary in its writing but still interesting enough in its plot etc. to engage me. I also really liked the ending and thought the bleakness of it suited the situations of the characters and the overall feel of the book.

Like Rachel said above, my enjoying this book (and also the character of Kavya) probably also has to do with my position in life and my relative distance from all the issues in the book — I don't live in the US, nobody I know has been in any similar situations to those in the book, and I'm a young woman anxious about the possibility of infertility in the future — so I think I was more invested in the characters who were similar to me, particularly Kavya. I thought the difficulty of the issues in the book was represented well, and it made me grieve for both mothers.

I'm grateful for the views in this thread that helped me to see what I hadn't in my own reading. :)


Katie | 127 comments I just finished this one and I agree with all the praise and critique above. I have to say I am probably unfairly comparing it to Little Fires Everywhere which handles some of the same topics differently. I preferred Little Fires Everywhere and was bummed it wasn't in the TOB. I think for me the most harrowing aspect of this book is Soli losing all agency. That's real, that's happening daily and so many people have no voice. For me that's what this book did well. It showed how a system can dehumanize a person, leaving them with no rights or access- not even to their own child. The whole end though felt forced....up to and including the husband's trip to Mexico. Just a little jump the shark-is. I think it will have good conversation though.


Kristin-Leigh (okrysmastree) | 58 comments I'm having trouble with this one - the writing is straightforward but the characters feel a little pat and the situations feel a little obvious. I'm gonna keep working on it but I'm not surprised I've set it aside for books like Idaho and Pachinko already.


Ruthiella | 354 comments Drew wrote: "I've already returned this book to the library so I can't check but doesn't Kavya have an aha moment right at the end? Yes, too little, too late but I felt she finally had some empathy for Soli ..."

I just finished this book and Drew is correct, Kavya does have a small epiphany near the end (page 461), " They had wanted to love. They had gone too far. They had take a woman's child. She could see that now, though the truth didn't fill their empty bungalow..".

I just found this book just OK. It isn't something I would normally pick up were it not for the TOB. I think the author tried very hard not to make anyone a villain but the book was too issue driven for me rather than a seemingly organic story.


Kristin-Leigh (okrysmastree) | 58 comments I'm 30% in and too close to DNFing this one. I'm gonna keep pushing to at least the halfway point but man, I'm just really not drawn to the writing style or the characters.


message 20: by Adam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Adam (adamstephenhall) Soli’s experience was completely believable to me. Every point in her journey is business-as-usual in how (female) illegal immigrants are treated on the way to, living in, and on the way out of this country. A large portion of A Little Life’s protagonist’s misfortunes were seemingly random (excepting that past abuse, left to fester, can make one more susceptible to future abuse), whereas Soli’s travails are baked into the system. If anything, the parts that didn’t ring entirely true were her strokes of luck (her escape), but those were needed to move the plot forward and tell a compelling story.

I also thought Kavya and Rishi were well developed and sympathetic. Rishi’s initial ambivalence about adoptive fatherhood was particularly well drawn. In many ways, this is ultimately a love triangle between two disparate mothers and their son. Should Kavya empathize more with her rival? Maybe? At no point did I find her monstrous or any more unreasonable than a loving parent frightened at the prospect of losing their child. As to whether she had the right to be Ignacio’s mother—well, that’s the central conflict of the book, the crux of which revolves around questions of privilege and the systemic shortfalls facing both adoptive parents and illegal immigrants. While the ending may be unsatisfying to some, it would have been just as unsatisfying if the Reddys got to keep Iggy. The novel is admirable for realizing that unflinchingly.


Kristin-Leigh (okrysmastree) | 58 comments I finally DNFed this one at 52%, when I realized nothing any of the characters had done over the past 5 chapters had been surprising.

I can't help comparing this book to The Leavers and wondering why Lucky Boy is in while The Leavers is out! Comparing one ICE/immigrant story with adoption politics to another, The Leavers featured such complex, nuanced characters, really interesting motifs and moving turns. Lucky Boy to me was flatly manipulative like an after school special.

It's not like there's a shortage of "current issue" novels being published each year, I'm shocked this was the one ToB copse to elevate and discuss. I'm looking forward to the playthrough if only because this might be my Big Hate of the year, lol.


Gwendolyn | 164 comments Adam, I agree 100%. A gripping read for me.


Kelly | 28 comments I'm sad that this beat out the far-superior Little Fires Everywhere, which dealt a lot more subtly with many of the same themes. I haven't read the Leavers yet (actually finally got to the top of the waitlist on it and had to pass b/c of Tourney backlog, but will try to get to that this year), but I suspect I would prefer it more too.

This book was a big pile of meh for me. It was too consciously, overly manipulative. I was irritated by Soli because the author was trying SO HARD to make me feel bad for her. Soli never felt like a character - it was like the author googled "Bad Things That Happen to Migrants" and then crafted a plot and character around that. I"m not denying the truth of all that happens to migrants trying to make it north, I just wish the author had built the character and plot a little more subtly.

I dunno. I'm not a particularly maternal person, so I have trouble with books that rely so heavily on the mystical mother-child bond. Maybe not the book for me, but I think I could have been swept in with a little more subtle handling of the themes and a little less angtsy emotions.


message 24: by Bryn (Plus Others) (last edited Jan 26, 2018 03:38PM) (new) - added it

Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 94 comments For a variety of reasons, I am giving up on this one at 22% -- the prose is not doing much for me, and I do not find Soli's story particularly believable -- not that these things do not happen, they do, but I just do not know what to think about her interiority about it all. It seems too charmingly naif to be real. If I were reading a book by someone who had gone through this kind of experience I would determinedly push away my disbelief and open myself to the learning, but as it is I end up feeling uncomfortable with the portrayal of Soli's experience.

Also, I agree with Kelly about the consciously manipulative, and having just finished Goodbye, Vitamin -- which I thought succeeded marvelously by not overtly going for obvious emotional buttons -- my tolerance for this sort of string-pulling is very low.


message 25: by Margot (last edited Jan 30, 2018 08:40AM) (new)

Margot (goodreadscommerelybookish) | 11 comments I was just a few hours into the audio and bailed. It was the writing that did me in. Compared with other books on the short list, it felt amateur. The prose seemed mediocre at best. So.much.description! And I could feel the plotting at work. If it wins its first round, I will try again.


Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 456 comments I just finished this and I'm wondering how it made it into the tournament and whether this affected how I read the book. If I had come to this book because one of my friends who read casually and usually stick to bestsellers handed it to me I think I might have given it a more generous reading. It's fine, I guess? But it's not a Rooster-level book.

The subject matter is important and worth reading about and I like so much that more books about the immigrant experience are being published. That's a good thing. But I agree with Kristen-Leigh that The Leavers sheds light on the same issues with a lighter hand and more nuance.

Sekaran reads like an author who is still learning their craft. I'd be interested in reading a book by her about the experience of being the child of immigrants from India and how growing up in the US as both well-educated and well-off, but still "other" is like. That book, that just tells a story about people without an agenda would be a good one.

But Lucky Boy is too heavy-handed and I could feel the Important Issues throughout the novel. Soli wasn't a woman, she was a representative. And the writing was often clunky and over-thought.


message 27: by Eric (new) - rated it 3 stars

Eric | 90 comments I'm in the middle of this now. I've never watched a Lifetime movie, but it's what I imagine one to be like. That having been said, I keep reading. I want to see what happens.


Ellen H | 764 comments It was fine. Nothing one way or the other. But it brought nothing new to this well-worn material, the writing was nothing spectacular, it wasn't a Big Hit book or an Intriguing Indie -- so what's it doing in the ToB? I know I'm at odds with many people here, but I felt the same way last year about The Mothers.


message 29: by Eric (new) - rated it 3 stars

Eric | 90 comments I feel the same way about this, Pachinko, and Manhattan Beach. They may not be great literature, but they're exactly the kind of thing I look for in an audiobook. An unadorned story that keep a certain amount of suspense going from page to page, without anything that makes you want to go back and read a sentence again. The motion is all forward.


Kelly | 28 comments Eric, Lifetime Movie pretty much sums it up perfectly, I think. Really perplexed how this one made the tourney, especially when there were better novels published this year that dealt with such similar themes.


Ellen H | 764 comments Exactly, Kelly. It's okay, but it doesn't bring anything new to this subject matter. What separates a book like Pachinko -- and even Manhattan Beach, to some extent -- from Lucky Boy is that the subject matter itself is new, or new-ish. I certainly haven't read any other books about the Korean immigrant experience in Japan throughout the 20th c., nor about the role of divers in the War at Home during WWII. However, there are scores of books out there about illegal immigrants crossing over to the US and even how their children born here are citizens when they are illegals and the possible ramifications thereof. Lucky Boy, to me, brought nothing new to the subject. The other two introduced a subject I hadn't thought about previously (and I think both are much better written than Lucky Boy).


Paige (paigeawesome) | 14 comments I'm glad that most people don't seem to think this is up to TOB standards. After knowing about the TOB for years, this is the first year I'm actually "playing along" and trying to read all the books, and this was the first one on the list that I read. I didn't love it. It felt kind of like chick-lit to me (maybe that's another way of saying Lifetime movie-ish?). Chick-lit has its place, but I was surprised that one of its places seemed to be Tournament of Books.

Soli's experience was believable, but I didn't feel the same about her as a character. It felt like she wasn't really...present. In her own story. Bryn mentioned "interiority" and I think that might be a big part of it.


Natalie | 51 comments Although I found Lucky Boy a very page-turner-y read (I plowed through the whole thing in ~3 days), I completely agree with Bryn Plus Others' comments about Soli's lack of interiority and the manipulative nature of the text. This was particularly evident to me in the last 25%, which I thought went completely off the rails. Given how much time the author spent establishing Soli's impossible situation, her escape and successful reclaiming of Ignacio seemed completely unbelievable* to me and a very obvious device to make Kavya and Rishi seem more likeable through their grief. The ending would have felt more honest to me if they had kept Ignacio but had to face more of a moral reckoning, leaving the reader deeply uncomfortable with their triumph and Soli's loss.

*I worked in immigration law in Seattle during the time this book is set. The actual detention center here is surrounded by barbed wire, in an industrial zone of a fairly large city, and pretty damn escape-proof.


Bretnie | 468 comments I liked the book. I don’t think it will go far in the tournament, and there are parts of the plot I didn’t love, but it was an interesting read that made me think about topics that aren’t normally in my immediate world, which is why I read - infertility, immigration, the whole foster care system, detention centers, motherhood. I thought the fact that I was forming how I wanted the book to resolve itself in the end said something about the writing.


message 35: by tif (new) - rated it 3 stars

tif flynn (itsmetif) Guess I'm in the minority here. I really enjoyed this book and all of the characters. So far I've read 6 of this year's TOB books and felt this was just as good as the others I read,


Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 456 comments tif wrote: "Guess I'm in the minority here. I really enjoyed this book and all of the characters. So far I've read 6 of this year's TOB books and felt this was just as good as the others I read,"

The one common thread between all the books in the tournament is how we all have vastly different reactions to each one. It makes the discussions much more fun than if we all agreed.


Gwendolyn | 164 comments Tif, I’m with you. I enjoyed this one too, and it really got me thinking about some tough issues.


message 38: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 236 comments Nothing here touched me. I didn't dislike or resent it, but the way the characters are all moved about as if they're dolls standing in for humans was a bit much.

There were moments that worked well for me - Kavya's life-long feeling she'd never compare to Preeti, Soli's lessons from her cousin on how to relate to her employers, Rishi's various emotional journeys (from single man to married, from happy duo to couple attempting parenthood, from supportive in theory to besotted by Ignacio)

Then there were so many that failed - Rishi's nonsense journey to Mexico, Kayva's buying bicycles and size 8 shoes or whatever in advance of the hearing, the foster home visit where Ignacio & Kayva had some kind of Super Magic Bonding Moment so the whole system was like "shrug, okay!"

If this wasn't a TOB book, I'd have walked away thinking, "thanks for the Very Special Episode of Things Are Hard Sometimes," though Kayva's extreme determination (and Rishi's buy-in to her POV) to refuse to acknowledge (until the last possible moment) that fostering is more than a path to possible adoption took away a big chunk of reliability for me.

Since it is TOB & therefore we'll be discussing it more, I am going to hold on to my disgruntlement a while longer.


message 39: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 236 comments But I also have to 'fess up that I was listening to the slightly overwrought 'oh humanity!' bit at the very end as I was in a check-out line, one of the things in my cart being violet hair dye, and the "grown women dying their hair purple" line hit my ears and I was very how dare! about it all.


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