This book tried to stand very tall in its own way. It was the Empire State Building of self-sabotage. And the only spot of damage control it had was the fact that Amy Bloom is the author. Let’s be fair, the characters weren’t all wretched human beings, and it was a soap opera of WWII proportional drama. Literally, it was set before and during WWII, and figuratively, there was just a whole bunch of she said, he said, drop your kid off on someone’s front porch, become a lesbian, be the only white man drinking whiskey sours at an all African-American jazz club, and death by fire.
No soap opera is complete without death by fire.
And these characters were anything but subdued. It opens with Eva who is living a honky-dory lifestyle with her single mother where her father visits to “bounce her on his knee” every Sunday. His mojo is a classic case of the other family. Heck, before social media, we could have all had alien brothers and sisters, making the phrase “brotha from anotha motha” so outdated and unfortunately, unable to be used in the literal sense at all anymore. What happened to the good ol’ days when Cheaters wasn’t on call and messaging was taken by a swirly cord phone in the living room with your stifling father sitting right there. I tell ya’ folks.
Eva enjoys her blissfully ignorant life until her father’s other family has an unfortunate death and her mother leaves her and her dainty little nine-year-old suitcase on the steps of the front porch. Eva meets her beautifully disadvantaged, indifferent, unapologetic half-sister, Iris, who does little to coddle, but a lot to teach. Iris and Eva advance to Hollywood where Iris is THAT much more disadvantaged by her beauty. People just don’t understand her.
If you’re a heroine, here’s where you throw the kerchief and the back of your soft, pearl hand against your forehead and sigh about luxury and first world problems.
Eva and Iris meet a make-up designer to the stars (keep in mind we’re just before WWII at this point) and he picks up the pieces of Iris’ misunderstandings. The girls return to their hometown with their father where they all live happily ever after, causing no more drama, and eating warm bread from the oven that they have worked on while buffering their nails.
Drama ensues. More characters are added, including this witty American fellow, mistaken for German, who sweet talks his way into card games with the little sister while his wife….does other things. This is actually the serious part of the novel where we get a glimpse into America’s missed seams during WWII. We see this through the character, Gus (also the name of my first and only hamster who died of a mere heart attack, scared to death by the cat). Gus is …. well, he’s the witty American fellow, who’s wifed up to a dime piece who works in the kitchen of a “new money” family in the suburbs.
At this point you have to be starting to understand the soap opera of it all.
If I could tell you about Iris’s infidelities then this twisted plot would become even more odd, but I can’t. You must read.
I will tell you that there’s a pop-up psychic, a woman who brings ham to a funeral that has to be hidden, a young lesbian starlet, short glimpses into WWII paparazzi, two city hair dresses with big attitudes, a Harlem jazz singer, and Edgar (father without a conscience).
If the psychic wasn’t enough to convince you, there’s another psychic who solves murders…. in french.
I’ve certainly won you over at this point. And, I haven’t even told you the name of the book. Lucky Us by Amy Bloom came out on August 26th, I got a magnificent review copy off of NetGalley and I think I’ll continue to talk like a 42-year-old Elizabeth Taylor for the rest of this week because it’s just too fabulous darling, I can’t live it down.
Just imagine this review was brought to you by the same campaign that brought you ICE YOURSELF by Matthew McConaughey in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.”
Deck yourself in expensive jewelry, creep around in costume diamonds, sass your way through with sparkle, and come out the other side having read an absurd book, with even more absurd pacing. Truly, I’m not even going to mention the pacing because I want you to read this one. It brings a strange new glow into the fiction world.