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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Let's talk about it...


message 2: by Dianah (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments I very much wanted to love this, but couldn't. Change my mind!


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Dianah wrote: "I very much wanted to love this, but couldn't. Change my mind!"

I wish I could, but I had a similar experience with it.


message 4: by Dianah (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments Tina wrote: "Dianah wrote: "I very much wanted to love this, but couldn't. Change my mind!"

I wish I could, but I had a similar experience with it."


Dang!


message 5: by Joe Sherry (new)

Joe Sherry | 36 comments I can remove this comment if this is inappropriate, but I reviewed So Lucky elsewhere (aka, not on Goodreads). The link is here.

The final paragraph of my review: "So Lucky is a novel of identity. Griffith directly addresses the question of how a disability does and does not define a person. While there is anger underpinning so much of So Lucky, I don't want to ride that idea too hard. So Lucky is also a beautiful novel. Some beauty is soft and painted in gentle tones and soaring music. This is not that novel. Some beauty is hard, edged, and razor sharp. If I describe So Lucky as a beautiful novel, it's because Griffith's edge is so finely honed, so cutting that the beauty is in its danger. The beauty is in how cleanly it can cut deep while barely leaving a trace."


message 6: by Heather (new)

Heather (hlynhart) | 324 comments Dianah wrote: "I very much wanted to love this, but couldn't. Change my mind!"

Yeah I can't change your mind. It was, in the immortal words of one Randy Jackson, "Just a'ight for me, dawg."

It's this year's The End of Eddy. A thinly disguised memoir-as-novel, and while the narrator/author seems like a cool person I would like to know in real life, I didn't quite click with the book.


message 7: by Natalie (new)

Natalie | 51 comments I actually disagree that it's a memoir disguised as a novel. Having read Nicola Griffith's memoir and followed her blog for many years, So Lucky strikes me as fictional. A few events from Griffith's life also happen to Mara (namely, an assault that spurs her to learn self-defense and an MS diagnosis), but everything else is pure fiction.

More broadly, Nicola Griffith is my all-time favorite author, but while I liked this, I didn't love it. For me, there seemed to be one or two too many subplots for a novella--I wished the plot had been a little more streamlined so that each element could have gotten a little more space. Also, while Mara's learning to get outside herself and see other people's perspectives was an important part of the narrative, her resultant POV did make all of the other characters feel a little too flat for me to get invested.


message 8: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments Dianah wrote: "I very much wanted to love this, but couldn't. Change my mind!"

I'm a bit swayed by the fact that I listened to the audio and that always adds a star if the narrator is good (and Griffith herself narrated with her lovely British accent) but I really appreciated this one - it was really angry in a totally appropriate way. I felt both indited as a healthy person and empathetic (rather than sympathetic) for the loss of independence, faith in one's body/strength, frustration and othering Mara experienced.

Note too that I think the audio drove home an audible metaphor for the story: her voice/accent is one I associate with upper-class propriety and it is joined by obvious anger, bitterness, sarcasm with some serious cussing. It's a well ordered life falling apart and furious about it. I may also have been a tiny bit angry and feeling helpless during the Supreme Court nominee hearings when I listened to her story.


message 9: by Dianah (last edited Dec 16, 2018 02:59AM) (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments SPOILERS!

I liked the character well enough, and was interested in both the lesbian and illness themes. The part I couldn't get past was how she somehow manages to become her own detective and uncover this insane serial killer plot. That seemed so far-fetched that it took me right out of the story.


message 10: by Michelle (new)

Michelle | 155 comments Yes! This.

Dianah wrote: "SPOILERS!

I liked the character well enough, and was interested in both the lesbian and illness themes. The part I couldn't get past was how she somehow manages to become her own detective and unc..."



message 11: by Neale (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments SPOILERS!

For me this book was very much about fear. Not just the fear of MS, but all the fears that come along with it. Loss of movement, independence, safety, dignity. Mara, who turned herself into such a strong character after the attack when she was younger, comes up against something that this strength cannot help her with. In fact, that physical strength is the first thing she loses.


Does anybody know what is going on with the old lady's dog? Is it meant to represent her MS? Is it a physical manifestation of the disease, similar to the one that has been stalking Mara and reveals itself at the end of the book?


message 12: by Lacy (new)

Lacy (kempfme) | 1 comments I loved this book. The characters were so real and the emotion kept the story going. I really a agree with the memoir feel and the theme of fear. I think it did a great job of the fear all women have ( we don’t have the same fear level as the main character, but we all have our own level of fear).

I think the old lady’s dog is a hallucination, but it could also represent another fear.


message 13: by Tristan (new)

Tristan | 105 comments I enjoyed the raw emotion of this book. Dianah nailed it above though, parts of the story were so far fetched as to take away from an otherwise excellent novella.


message 14: by Neale (last edited Jan 09, 2019 12:09PM) (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments Lacy wrote: "I loved this book. The characters were so real and the emotion kept the story going. I really a agree with the memoir feel and the theme of fear. I think it did a great job of the fear all women ha..."

Hi Lacey. But doesn't the old lady see it too? That's what had me perplexed. Only Mala and the old lady can see it. I agree with you about how real it all felt. I know that Griffith has multiple sclerosis and that this book is based on many things that have happened to her, but it did not feel like a memoir to me. I know that many people have said it felt like a memoir to them though.


message 15: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 131 comments Joe wrote: "I can remove this comment if this is inappropriate, but I reviewed So Lucky elsewhere (aka, not on Goodreads). The link is here.

The final paragraph of my review: "So Lucky is a novel of identity..."


Nice review, Joe. Love that last paragraph.


message 16: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 131 comments Having known several people with MS, this sounds like an interesting read. I've added it to my list to check out. Thanks for all the diverse opinions.


message 17: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 241 comments I'm on the loved it side of things. I haven't read Griffith before (gonna change that now!) but am not surprised she's got experience with some of Mara's struggles.

SPOILERS

I liked the dog (along with that curse-laden email she thought was her perfect professional budget) as an early indicator that Mara wasn't as in control of her reality as she thought.

And that's also why I liked the serial killer plot; she never fully says, 'I have holes now and cannot fully trust my mental processes,' but those clues are all on the page, and she sees them when she lets herself. So she has to somehow prove the dog is real, and that the murders are linked (even taking the blame for the list is a kind of control she can wrest back into her life.) And all along as readers we're going, "hmm okay maybe the dog is a kind of magic vision and real in that way, cause I don't think it was real real, but clearly she's grasping about the murders and is that break-in even connected or is everyone having a group-think kind of paranoia, and seriously, she's just going to keep calling different authorities? they're all going to dismiss her and then she's going to rant online and then everyone's going to dismiss her and then her new non-profit is going to fall to pieces! ack!" That tension really worked for me.

Pre-MS she had the ability to use her anger to propel her to a place where she felt in control, and after, her anger was a knife-edge of helpful fury and alienation-causing fury. (And in the end she was able to hear that her anger crusades have had alienating effects even as she is so fueled by them.) I loved the way the book explored so many kinds of anger and self-righteousness and vulnerabilities.


message 18: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments Melanie - yes! This!
Plus I think the attackers storyline was meant to really highlight the degree to which the mainstream (in this case healthy people) disregards the words or thinking of people lacking their privilege. (“Of course you think someone’s after MS people, cause YOU’RE one”.... just as easily “Of course you assume racism or ableism or homophobia or [insert other-ism here] because YOU’RE that... and it’s all in your head!”). To some degree the negligence of the cops and FBI in their responses borders on gaslighting - they feel obligated to not just disregard but to also infer ‘she-crazy!’ which Mara has to fight from impacting her view of self.


message 19: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 241 comments oh yes, so very much - the micro- and macro- aggressive ablism fed directly into her own fears of loss of agency. Griffith wrapped it all up so well together.


message 20: by Rachelnyc (new)

Rachelnyc | 61 comments I thought this was a powerful read and the author did a great job of putting the reader into Mara's headspace. I agree about the serial killer subplot being far fetched and assumed it was paranoia so it actually being real did take me out of the story. I feel like there could have been a way to make it feel more realistic but there wasn't enough space for it in this short novel.

I didn't mind the other characters not being fully formed since this was very much Mara's story and it was about how she interacted with those around her than how she interpreted their actions and responses. I still don't know what to think about the dog though...


message 21: by Mike (new)

Mike | 16 comments I think the dog represented fear of MS and the future. As the older lady opined, as long as you pay attention and care for the disease (dog) it trots along just fine, that is, until the next...symptom/setback. The others in the group did not see the dog as they had reached a point of acceptance of MS and the future.


message 22: by Neale (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments Mike wrote: "I think the dog represented fear of MS and the future. As the older lady opined, as long as you pay attention and care for the disease (dog) it trots along just fine, that is, until the next...symp..."

Yes Mike, I was thinking something similar but you have articulated it beautifully. Thanks.


message 23: by Saya (new)

Saya (motheroftherevolution) | 42 comments Count me in as another person who enjoyed the book but thought the sub-plot about the killers didn't work. It also kind of spoiled what I thought could have been a beautiful ending. The way the cops call and say, "We've got the bad guys now." Then Mara confronts the shadow insecurities... It felt jarring given the pace/flow of the rest of the book. Like she was in a rush to finish so she just tried to tie everything up nicely.

Even still, I loved the writing, so it was a three star read for me.


message 24: by Neale (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments Saya wrote: "Count me in as another person who enjoyed the book but thought the sub-plot about the killers didn't work. It also kind of spoiled what I thought could have been a beautiful ending. The way the cop..."

Yes Saya. I think it would have been a much better book, I agree the writing is beautiful, if the whole killer sub-plot would have been left out entirely. The book has stayed with me, and I appreciate the little things more now. Mara's struggle with MS opened my eyes to how difficult it is for people who have this terrible disease.


message 25: by Jennifer (formerly Eccentric Muse) (last edited Jan 13, 2019 08:09AM) (new)

Jennifer (formerly Eccentric Muse) | 26 comments hi all ... this was an interesting read for me. I came to Griffith through Hild, which absolutely ranks as my favourite from her, and one of my favourite books overall. Since reading Hild, I've not quite been able to connect with anything else as strongly from her and same is true of So Lucky.

That said, I have a different take on the serial killer sub-plot based on something that Griffith did really well here: she described the inner workings of a non-profit extremely well (I am a non-profit VP so I was looking for accuracy; and as an aside, Rebecca Makkai does it equally well in The Great Believers).

In order to fund the new non-profit she started, Mara obtained and sold her previous organization's mailing list, which included donors' personal data identifying them as having MS. This is a highly ethically-questionable process, if not outright illegal. It led, in the novel, to these donors being exposed and vulnerable at a life-and-death level so this whole sub-plot seems to work more for symbolic and thematic purposes.

I also think it shows interesting things about Mara's character, and the character of anyone stricken with a chronic, possibly fatal illness as they confront it: 1) her zeal and her anger-fuelled behaviour which Griffith does an awesome job exploring (and also exploring the traumatic and misogynistic roots of this anger); and 2) Mara's underlying guilt knowing what she did was unethical, and needing to take accountability for it *despite* what, for her, she had rationalized as just given the importance of her cause.

So all that to say, I think the serial killer sub-plot worked really well on thematic, characterization and symbolic levels - but not so much at a straight narrative level where it seemed far-fetched.

My experience is, this is Griffith in a nutshell. In her fiction that is more obviously speculative, these kinds of plot lines are not as jarring as here, which - as many of you have said - reads almost as a memoir, and certainly as straight fiction (with the exception of that damn dog and old woman!! hahah Here again, Griffith is working her usual tricks into the narrative).


message 26: by Rachelnyc (new)

Rachelnyc | 61 comments Jennifer (aka EM) wrote: "hi all ... this was an interesting read for me. I came to Griffith through Hild, which absolutely ranks as my favourite from her, and one of my favourite books overall. Since readi..."

Thanks for sharing that perspective Jennifer. It's always good to know an author gets things like that right since I know when a book has inaccuracies about my profession or another subject I know well, it is infuriating!

I agree that her speculation that the serial killers are using her list works to spotlight her guilt. What I thought was weird was that Griffith even pointed out the irrationality of it by having the police officer state that based on percentages, it was just as likely to be random. If she had simply included more victims so that it would be more obvious that the list (or a list of MS patients) was being used, it would have been more believable.

Mike, I like your interpretation of the dog.


Jennifer (formerly Eccentric Muse) | 26 comments Rachelnyc wrote: "by having the police officer state that based on percentages, it was just as likely to be random. If she had simply included more victims so that it would be more obvious that the list (or a list of MS patients) was being used, it would have been more believable.
"

Yeah, that's where it kind of fell apart for me too. Although (and it's been too long since I've read it, i.e., more than a month haha), wasn't there a point at which there was a third (or fourth?) potential victim and the cops all of a sudden concluded it wasn't random?

I'm totally forgetting the conclusion of this storyline.......


message 28: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments Yeah there was one robbery/assault, then a robbery when no one was home and then a murder (or the order might be reversed for the last two). Mara was already suspicious at #2 but flipped out at #3 on the list. Cops didn’t buy it until at least one more murder. I think part of why Mara pounced on it had to do with the cruelty of the murder, in which they had specifically hurt an already helpless person and taken advantage of the disability. It reminded her of her early learning “that men will harm women because they can” after she was beat up. She was both empathizing with and refusing to be the victim.


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 97 comments My first ToB read of 2019!

I cannot really sort out my feelings about this one; I have been a fan of Griffith since she began writing and I adore Hild and I recognise the importance of work about disability by authors who are writing from their experience, but at the same time, there was nothing in this novel that surprised or astonished me. I agree with Melanie about the slippery nature of Mara's POV and the double vision it provides, and I thought it was well put together, but... well. A solid three stars from me, and I look forward to discussing it in the tournament.


message 30: by Natalie (new)

Natalie | 51 comments Bryn (Plus Others), you put my thoughts into words better than I managed to! I'm a huge Nicola Griffith fan, but I was surprised by how unsurprising I found So Lucky.


message 31: by Lee (new)

Lee Razer (lelandrazer) | 66 comments The dog. Griffith describes the scene and it’s clear that no one besides Mara and the old lady can see it and that should be obvious to Mara (“So you see him?”... “Yours ain’t a small dog.... never seen anything like your great grinning thing.”) This after Mara has already felt some threatening mystical presence. Then later this shadow or monster or whatever it is actually fights her for her cane in a bathroom.

Obviously dealing in the embodied metaphysical. But then Mara calls up the therapist and is all confused that the little dog wasn’t real. She thinks they’re pretending because the community center doesn’t allow animals inside. Come on. If you’re going to have an element like this in the story you can’t make your protagonist this clueless about it at this late point! In my opinion. Definitely bugged me. So that was one thing about this book that lead me to rate it fairly low.


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 97 comments I feel like I see why Mara couldn't expand her viewpoint to take in the obviously mystical things happening to her -- she is very set on a certain way of seeing the world no matter what happens to disrupt it -- but it did make me less engaged with the book.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 642 comments I thought I'd point out that So Lucky was included on the final Over the Rainbow Booklist for 2018 from the American Library Association. I am a member of that committee and we narrowed the list to ten from 469 books (fiction, non-fiction, poetry) so that's something!

Link for more info


message 34: by Bretnie (new)

Bretnie | 504 comments I ended up really liking this book. It felt powerful for a lot of the reasons that many of you have mentioned. The serial killer piece threw me a bit too, but in the end I felt like it worked for what the author was trying to do. To put the reader inside her head, trying so hard to sort out her realities plus just desperately trying to be heard.

I listened to the audiobook, which I found perfect for portraying Mara's literal voice but also her inner voice and the struggle she goes through.

One thing that confused me was how quickly her physical decline happened - all within one year. Is this pretty realistic? I don't know that much about MS. But I understand why it had to happen that way in the novel.


message 35: by Bretnie (new)

Bretnie | 504 comments Also, I'm a bit bummed this is up against House of Broken Angels. I liked So Lucky a lot more, but I know I'm probably in the minority on that.


message 36: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 241 comments Bretnie wrote: "One thing that confused me was how quickly her physical decline happened - all within one year. Is this pretty realistic?"

yeah, it's quite possible. MS doesn't have a predictable rate of decline, but those I know with it have tended to have a rapid onset followed by various ability levels (which wax and wane) in the ensuing months and years.


message 37: by Bretnie (new)

Bretnie | 504 comments Thanks for that clarification Melanie! I assumed it was probably realistic, just surprising.


message 38: by Peebee (new)

Peebee | 68 comments I love your review, Jennifer....I’ve been in the nonprofit world for most of my career as well, and The Great Believers was my favorite book of 2018 because it resonated so closely with my life.

I really liked So Lucky too — small but packed a powerful emotional punch.


message 39: by Lauren (last edited Feb 18, 2019 09:28AM) (new)

Lauren Oertel | 960 comments This book hit frighteningly close to home for me. I'm glad I read it now, in remission, rather than when I was in the hospital in August, since I think it would have really gotten into my head at that point. I was living in a nightmare with a similar (but not as terminal) autoimmune disease this past April through October, and so much of what she describes in "So Lucky" reflects what many people go through with these types of health issues.

I really connected with her reflections on the humiliation of getting through airports in a wheelchair, the loss of control when you can't physically protect or take care of yourself anymore, the PTSD from being a woman who has been attacked by men, the torture of getting IVs in hospitals when your veins have already been destroyed, the frustrations with drugs like prednisone and doctors not understanding why we hate these drugs, etc. I'm also familiar with hallucinations of people trying to kill me when I had dengue fever 10 years ago. I'm not sure this book would have done as much for me if I didn't have all of these personal connections, but now I'm definitely glad I read it.

I also agree with how accurate the portrayal of the nonprofit world was.

And I had a slightly different take on the serial killers situation. When it was resolved so cleanly in the end with "we got the bad guys and the state will execute them for this, so you can feel safe now" I didn't buy it. It made me question the whole thing and how much of it was based in reality (which also prompts deeper thinking into reality in general - whose reality?). The way it ended corresponded so perfectly with her defiance over the psychological aspects of her disease that I think some of that subplot was created through her disease and "the holes in her brain." Not that we should discredit accusations and warning from people suffering from diseases that alter their awareness of reality, but I think it points to some of the "unreliable narrator" parts of the story, and how really any of us could be unreliable.

Oh and I think the title was perfect. It could have been a little more subtle with two rather than three references to it, but I think it perfectly captures the author's attitude and nuance of the term "lucky."


message 40: by Charlie (new)

Charlie | 3 comments Just popping in to say that I am in the really-liked-but-didn't-love camp for So Lucky. I appreciated its compactness (is it the shortest book this year?) and I think as a novel of identity politics it works well. I work with gender and crip theorists and for them this is probably surface-level, but it also really acutely distills a lot of the intentions and theories of such into a readable personal narrative-style fiction. I actually dug the serial killer aspect, as that was the thing that really elevated the novel into some sort of high-fictional realm, and I think it was something that Griffith could have dug more into, since it feels like it only comes up in the last third of the already-short novel. It would be hard to go further into it without ending up in some real over-the-top territory though, so I understand why it is kept as an undercurrent.


message 41: by Peggy (new)

Peggy | 196 comments For me, this book was a force of nature. I've never read Griffith before so had zero expectations and I just couldn't put it down. Her anger was so sharp, so vividly portrayed, and I definitely felt its righteousness at key points--the airport, the bar at the conference, the loser who took the disabled parking spot, etc. It forced me to reflect on my privileges as a healthy person, too, and highlighted my own ignorance in uncomfortable ways.

Serial killer helped to highlight her overwhelming paranoia as a result of losing bodily control, and I appreciated that. The tight focus on her perspective was a brilliant choice. It definitely wrapped up way too neatly to be fully believed, but that was a slight drawback. Overall, I really connected with this story.

Would never have read it without TOB (I've found myself saying this a lot over the past few years).


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