Every once in a while, a book shows up that I didn’t know I was looking for.
That’s kind of what happened with Shanthi Sekaran’s Lucky Boy.
At the age of 18, Solimar Castro Valdez leaves her small Mexican town for the U.S. After an incredibly dangerous journey, she finds herself on her cousin, Silvia’s doorstep, pregnant. Silvia takes her in, helps her find work as a housekeeper for the Cassidys and supports her as she tries to figure out her place in this new world. But neither of them are in the U.S. legally and know that their positions are precarious.
Kavya and Rishi Reddy have a beautiful life in Berkley. Kavya is a chef for a sorority, and Rishi works at a massive tech company – they are both on their way to fulfilling the dreams their Indian parents had for them. But while their lives are successful in so many ways, they have been unable to have a child of their own. Their struggle tests their marriage and sets them in a crash course with Solimar.
When Solimar finds herself in immigrant detention her son Ignacio, barely a year old, is placed with a foster family. Eventually he is placed with Kavya and Rishi who find room in their hearts for this little boy, even though they are both terrified of what could happen should his mother be released.
This book’s emotions are so layered, it was delicate work to peel them all back. There are Soli’s dreams of coming to America, of what her life will look like and how she handles the reality, the love she feels for her son and how that fires her up to do whatever is necessary for his wellbeing; Kava’s yearnings for a child of her own, her frustrations in her marriage when she and Rishi aren’t necessarily on the same page, the euphoria of realizing her heart is meant to adopt; and Rishi, trying to succeed on his own terms within the confines of the expectations of his Indian heritage, comparing himself to those around him, the difficulties he has figuring out how to be a father to someone not his own.
Sekaran’s prose is beautiful, parsed along sparingly until it overflows with love and anger and need. She so ably captures opposing sides of the spectrum of life in America. This is a dense book – I felt like I had lived several lifetimes when I finished. But it was worth every page. It was a good reminder of what can happen if we open our hearts to those around us.
If you’re heartsore about what’s going on around you, read Lucky Boy, if only to remind yourself of what the American dream used to look like.