Book Review: Lucky Boy

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Author: Shanthi Sekaran

Pages: 473

Published: 2016

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I have been reading San Francisco Public Library’s One City One Book – an initiative to get the community to read the same book at the same time and then discuss in book groups. The main mission – “by building bridges between communities and generations through the reading and most importantly the discussion of – one book, the hope is to make reading a lifelong pursuit and to build a more literate society.”

What makes these books interesting is that they are all novels that take place in the bay area, so these are stories with backdrops I have personal connections to.


Back Cover Summary

In this astonishing novel, Shanthi Sekaran gives voice to the devotion of motherhood through two women bound together by their love for one boy. Soli, a young undocumented Mexican woman in Berkeley, California, finds that motherhood offers her an identity in a world where she’s otherwise invisible. When she is placed in immigrant detention, her son comes under the care of Kavya, an Indian-American wife overwhelmed by her own impossible desire to have a child. As Soli fights for her son, Kavya builds her love on a fault line, her heart wrapped around someone else’s child. Exploring the ways in which dreams and determination can reshape a family, Sekaran illuminates issues of class, ambition, parenthood, and immigration.

From rural Oaxaca to Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto to the dreamscapes of Silicon Valley, Lucky Boy offers a moving and revelatory look at the evolving landscape of the American dream and the ever-changing borders of love.

Where I read it

I read this book on the train mostly. I have a 45 minute commute from the city down to the peninsula and back.

How long did it take to read?

A little over a month.

I have a very busy schedule and I was only reading it on the train in 20 – 40 minute increments. There would be a few days here and there where I wouldn’t pick it up, but when I did pick it up, it was definitely a page turner from beginning to end.

Stand out quote(s):

“Don’t be afraid of failing, Rishi-bhai,” Sen said, reading his thoughts. “I led four different companies to the brink of destruction before they hired me at Weebies. Did you know that? It’s not in my company bio. But it’s why they hired me. Failure is knowledge. Nothing more. A little bad luck, some stupid decisions. Nothing more.”

“Okay.”

“You don’t believe me.”

Rishi shrugged.

“You’ve been to India? Sen asked. “So you’ve seen those buses, right? The buses with the men hanging off the sides?”

“Sure.”

“They hang off like this, no? Three, four, five of them across? And you wonder how the bloody hell they manage to not fall? What are they hanging on to? Who knows? But they hang on. Instead of saying Too full, I’ll get the next bus, they run for their lives and jump onto these overcrowded things. And every time they do it, someone catches them, holds on to them, and they hold on too, until they get to where they need to go. No?”

“Yeah,” Rishi said. “You’re right. They do.”

“Imagine if they didn’t take the chance? If they played the cool guy and stayed on the ground?”

“Yeah. I think I see.”

“What would happen then?”

“They’d never get anywhere,” Rishi answered. “They’d be stuck.”

Sen raised one triumphant finger.

Feeling inexplicably uplifted, Rishi hopped to his feet and walked out.

“Run for the bus, Rishi-Bhai!” Sen called.

My Thoughts

Sekaran did an amazing job of capturing the thoughts and emotions of the two women going through unfathomable experiences. Many times I had to close the book and just sit with the emotions rising up in my heart and throat.

The light she shines on various relevant topics such as immigration, immigration hierarchy, motherhood, and grit, made this book valuable in addition to being a gripping story.

Although the themes are mostly heavy and the experiences the women go through made me want to cry from time to time, Sekaran is funny! Many times I found myself laughing out loud as she writes about Kavya’s indian mother, Berkeley’s hipster atmosphere, Soli’s innocence in America, and the triumphs and struggles of being in a marriage.

Shanthi Sekaran writes beautifully, and I could read this all over again.

Final Verdict

A must read.

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