Title: Lucky Boy
Author: Shanthi Sekaran
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publishing Date: January 10th, 2017
Number of Pages: 480
Solimar Castro Valdez is eighteen and dazed with optimism when she embarks on a perilous journey across the US/Mexican border. Weeks later she arrives on her cousin’s doorstep in Berkeley, CA, dazed by first love found then lost, and pregnant. This was not the plan. But amid the uncertainty of new motherhood and her American identity, Soli learns that when you have just one precious possession, you guard it with your life. For Soli, motherhood becomes her dwelling and the boy at her breast her hearth.
Kavya Reddy has always followed her heart, much to her parents’ chagrin. A mostly contented chef at a UC Berkeley sorority house, the unexpected desire to have a child descends like a cyclone in Kavya’s mid-thirties. When she can’t get pregnant, this desire will test her marriage, it will test her sanity, and it will set Kavya and her husband, Rishi, on a collision course with Soli, when she is detained and her infant son comes under Kavya’s care. As Kavya learns to be a mother–the singing, story-telling, inventor-of-the-universe kind of mother she fantasized about being–she builds her love on a fault line, her heart wrapped around someone else’s child.
Lucky Boy is an emotional journey that will leave you certain of the redemptive beauty of this world. There are no bad guys in this story, no obvious hero. From rural Oaxaca to Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto to the dreamscapes of Silicon valley, author Shanthi Sekaran has taken real life and applied it to fiction; the results are moving and revelatory.
Trigger Warning: Rape
(Even though it wasn’t on the “highlight” of the book and not the focus, I know that I still NEED to put this trigger warning here. I WASN’T WARNED that rape issues will be talked about in this book and that feeling of surprise, pain and hatred I felt is almost unbearable so I want to WARN YOU.)
I was pretty excited when Miss Julia from Penguin Random House International contacted me to read and review this book. It was the time when I just finished reading A Marriage of A Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu (WHICH I TRULY LOVED!) and I was trying to discover more diverse books to read, so Miss Julia just did a right timing there. I immediately said yes because I had a feeling that this might be a good diverse read. And yes, it happened to be one.
How lucky I am to be able to read something as bold and painfully beautiful story like this. Lucky Boy is not just a story of a “drunk on optimism” teenage girl. Nope. It’s more than that. It is a story of a teenage girl who once dreamt. A teenage girl who – just like everyone else – did everything to reach for it. A teenage girl who fell a hundred times and got up a thousand. A teenage girl who fought and never got tired of fighting. It is not just a story of a wife. It is a story of a mother longing for the own child she never had and never will have. An incomplete woman. A broken wife. It is not just a story of a husband. It is a story of a man. A man who’ll do a great father if just given the chance. A father to his own child that will never exist. It is not just a story of a boy. It is a story of a boy with two equally strong mothers. A story of a lucky child. A lucky son. A lucky boy. And most importantly, this is not just their stories. It is a story of Browns, a story of Indians, a story of an abused, a story of the oppressed, a story of reality. All for the lucky reader: YOU.
Lucky Boy is that kind of book that made me realize, that while we are here, scrolling on our news feeds, chitchatting with friends, thinking how hard our life already is, there are people on the other part of this world REALLY suffering, being abused and struggling to survive. It made me see – and will also make you see – the world differently. Lucky Boy will make us remember the truths about this cruel world that we always try to forget. It will make us remember.
Solimar Castro-Valzed. She is one of the most inspiring female fictional characters I’ve ever seen. She’s been through A LOT. Yet, she remains still and standing. At first, I honestly can’t stand her innocence. But I know that I have no right to blame her because of the place where she came from and their culture. There are a lot of times where anyone will definitely disapprove her decisions and actions but there’s something more inside her. She has this strength I don’t think I, personally, will ever have. Sometimes, she makes me realize how weak I am as a woman and as a person. To think that, if I were to place myself in the situations she’s been through, I don’t think I’ll be able to do what she did and survive such struggles. She isn’t perfect but I personally think that we need more Soliman Castro-Valdez in this world. People need to meet her and learn lessons from her. Such a commendable character.
Aside from parenthood, illegal immigration and rape are also present in this book. Lucky Boy did a great job showcasing the painful truths in life. We’ll see the different struggles of each characters and how they fought to survive it. It is all throughout heart-wrenching. It pinched my heart. A journey so real it hurts. And compared to the book I’ve read right before this, I at least understood some things about the Mexican border and why people wants either illegally or legally cross it. And what it also takes to cross that border. Many are not aware about this and Lucky Boy is a way of telling people the story of other persons some will never imagine exists.
On the other hand, it took me quite a long time reading this book. Even though I loved the story very much, there’s something off with the writing that I really didn’t like and that didn’t make me read this book faster. There was just this flatness that is the main reason why it took me weeks to finish it. It isn’t a page-turner. It lacks the power to convince me finish this in just one sitting. But aside from that, everything went well.
Lucky Boy is painfully beautiful and truthful. An important story all for the lucky reader: YOU.
Shanthi Sekaran was born and raised in California, and now splits her time between Berkeley and London. A graduate of UC Berkeley and the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, she was first published in Best New American Voices 2004 (Harcourt). Her novel, The Prayer Room, will be released in February 2009.
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**Thank you very much Penguin Random House International for providing me a review copy in exchange of an honest book review. The review copy received by any means didn’t affect nor influenced my review.