Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.
You know when you’re reading a book and you know it’s a good book, well written and such, and you know you probably should like it but you don’t?
That’s what happened with me and Lucky Us by Amy Bloom.
I was seduced by a number of things with this one. First, beautiful cover design. It’s one of those velvety feeling covers which always gets extra points from me and the lion and the zebra, the beautiful curtains and the tiny planet Earth in the distance – it’s gorgeous. I was curious about how that cover came to be and now having read the book, I still have no idea what it’s supposed to denote.
Secondly, the book jacket told me it was the story of two sisters called Eva and Iris. I’m Eva, and my mother is Iris. I was intrigued by a novel that would pair these names. A silly reason maybe, but there you are. Reading the description I was into it, picturing war-time Hollywood and all the glamour that would come from that.
Instead, it was 234 pages of really terrible things happening. It reminded me of when I read Kate Atkinson’s When Will There Be Good News? When Eva is 11, her father’s wife dies and her mother brings her to her father’s house to see what they can get out of this. Then her mother just leaves her there and Eva is left to live with her father and half sister, Iris. At first Iris is annoyed that this usurper has arrived but eventually Eva becomes a kind of sidekick. After their father steals Iris’ life savings a second time, Iris decides it’s time to get out and try her luck in Hollywood. Eva goes with her.
Things are going OK in Holly wood for a while; Iris is getting small speaking roles and they’ve been able to move into a nice apartment. But then Iris gets caught doing something scandalous and knows she will never work again. Then their father shows up, wanting to be a part of their lives. Eventually the three of them and a make-up artist called Francisco journey back to New York City and try to start over.
It was hard to connect with anyone in this novel because the point of view kept changing. We started out with Eva in the first person, telling the story as it unfolds. Then there are letters from Iris in London anywhere from 3-5 years into the future from where we were in the story. And occasionally we spend a few pages with someone completely different, telling a little story to fill in the gaps.
And nothing good happens to the characters. Some burn to death, others die slowly, one deals with a skin condition her whole life, most of them are struggling with various levels of poverty and it just dragged me down without some hope thrown in there. When we do get back to Eva’s perspective, she’s so apathetic to everything happening around her.
Reading it you know it’s a good novel – it’s beautifully written for one thing. But I felt like I was reading something that I should like, the way that I feel when I try to read Salman Rushdie. But hey, at the end of the day being compared to Salman Rushdie is no bad thing.
Lucky Us is out July 29th.