Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date: January 10th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Cultural, Fiction, Literary
Despite its upbeat sounding title Lucky Boy is a novel saturated in desperation. Desperation for a better life, desperation for a child, for success…for happiness. Solimar is eighteen, lives in a dying town in Mexico and with money her parents procure she leaves with a man who is supposed to get her to California where she will meet up with a cousin who has already established herself and has papers. Kavya is an Indian-American woman living with her husband in Berkley. She is a chef at a sorority while he works at a company that makes baby products. Entering their thirties, they are on the baby trajectory, but with no success. Author Shanthi Sekaran makes these two dichotomous paths collide with a force that shatters and scatters everything in its path.
It comes as no surprise that Soli’s route to America is not as promised. In fact, it’s as bad as anything imagined or on the news. The difference is she makes it and after her recovery her cousin finds her a job as a cleaning woman for a nice family in Berkley. Life seems to settle until she realizes she’s pregnant. She gives birth to a son and is managing her life until a cataclysm of mistakes leaves her in prison awaiting deportation and her 18-month-old son in foster care. At the opposite end of the baby scale, Kavya and Rishi have exhausted and are exhausted from their attempts to have a child. When they decide to try fostering before adoption, they meet Ignacio, Soli’s son. He comes home with them and the die is cast for all of them.
Beyond the real-life stories, there have been a number of fictionalized works about a child being removed from a mother’s care and placed with a family of a different ethnic background. Sekaran obliterates those trope-y confines and uses Lucky Boy to lay bare a multitude of social issues. Some are familiar—people wanting a better life coming to America and working for the dream, but being caught up in the reality. Others are less so—the antipathy towards adoption in the traditional Indian community that separates Kavya from her mother; the belief that bloodline is paramount. Then there is the impossibility of justice for those who cannot pay for it and the treatment of government detainees. All of these come together in Lucky Boy, but thanks to Sekaran’s grace under pressure her writing doesn’t feel salacious or forced. Instead, the novel is one that hurts, with no easy answers. Sadly, it is a meaningful novel of our times that resonates.