"Family isn't always blood. It's the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are; the ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what." - author unknown.
This is the expression I was thinking of when I read this book. And after reading it, I had to let it simmer for a while. Yes, it is one of those books!
Lucky Us is so multidimensional that it will take a while to think it over. There's the moral dilemmas versus the unscripted destinies; the narcissism versus altruism; the versions of history written by ourselves versus the one written for us by others. And when all these elements blend into each other, a story such as Lucky Us becomes possible. Profound, shocking, endearing, and mostly believable. It is as much relevant as historical fiction as it is about family and the bonds that are redefined: old ones negated and new ones formed out of necessity as prescribed by destiny.
1939 - 1949
The theme of the book is not new. The Holocaust - pre- and post events. What makes it different, and worth reading, is the American history, some events in America itself, impacting the family's lives, added to the millions of books written about the subject. This story revolves around a father, Edgar V. Aton, and his two daughters, Eva & Iris, who found themselves destined for hardship or happiness when his first wife dropped off Eva at his second wife's home after the latter passed away. Iris was the daughter from his second marriage. From Ohio to Hollywood, to New York, to Germany, to Israel: the journey to finally come to terms with their own choices. Destiny would lead them through avenues of flimflammery, of surrealism, to be ultimately confronted by the truth, which none of them ever thought possible. Deception and dishonesty finally collided with reality and integrity. Hope finally wrote their own new history.
The rich cast of characters include:
Eva: autodidact, who becomes the biggest con artist of them all: the psychic, with a sign in her shop window stating "ASSOCIATION FOR METAPHYSICAL RESEARCH" . The young girl who had to clean up after everyone else, and who eventually concluded that : "father had been a beaker of etiquette and big ideas, Iris was a vase of glamour, and I was the little brown jug of worry."
Iris: narcissistic, yet surprisingly kind when it suited her;
Francisco: the make-up artist, the Mexican gay man who would become Eva's mainstay;
Edgar V. Acton(né Isador Vogel): the conman, womanizer, but also wise mentor in his children's lives;
Clara Williams - twenty years younger than Edgar, the Negro woman with the magical voice and the conscience
Torellis - fairy-tale Italian family - who made their lives bearable;
Reenie & Gus (who became Karl Hauser, then Gersh Hoffman, Jewish schoolteacher) - the cook and the mechanic, who brought substance and meaning into their lives;
Then there is Carnie, Bea and Ozzie Patterson and finally Danny, the orphan, who found an unlikely bond within the newly chosen family. Love has a magical way of defining destiny for all of them.
The well-written prose (particularly the epistolary alternation in the rhythm of the tale), the story line, the surprise elements, the constant drama and the detailed history in the book, kept me glued to the story. I was constantly awed by the immense, mind-blowing, detail behind the characters' thoughts, geographical-, as well as historical surroundings, the music, cuisine, literature, day-to-day activities, political landscape, landmarks, everything! It was also my first encounter with the author's work and it will not be the last. This quality of prose does not pass one by often.
RECOMMENDED TO EVERYONE! In fact: a must-read for the more serious reader.
The book is destined for publication in July, 2014.
It was provided as an ARC by Random House through http://edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com