“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C.S. Lewis
Today’s post is a part of a series from “Blog With Friends”, which is a collaborative effort. Each month, a group of bloggers publish a project based upon a specific theme or idea. The projects are diverse, special and unique to each blogger, every month is different. The theme for March is Luck. You can find the links to the other bloggers and their projects listed at end of this post.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not particularly crafty nor much of a chef/baker, but I am a voracious reader. I love books, all kinds of books. I’ve only met one book, in my entire life that I absolutely hated. Usually, ambivalence is the strongest emotion I feel against a book. I either love them or meh…I could take it or leave it. I hated “Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt. I don’t know why. I can’t even remember what it’s about really. I finished it, but I loathed every second of it. It’s strange for me to have such a visceral negative reaction to a book, especially one in which I can’t recall any specifics. I always finish a book. Except one. “Dianetics” by L Ron Hubbard was beyond strange and suffice it to say that I could never consider Scientology. It’s the only book I’ve ever started and didn’t finish. I may put them down, read something else, but I always come back. I can’t stand to leave a book…undone. I rarely read a book more than once with the exception of the Harry Potter series. I read those books over and over and over again. Every time a new one was released, I’d reread the whole series.
So when the theme for Blog with Friends was announced, I felt positive there was an interesting book out there with the word “luck” in the title. Otherwise, I’d probably never have picked up Amy Bloom’s “Lucky Us” to read. If I had to pick a favorite genre, I’d probably pick Historical Fiction. “Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah is the best book I’ve read in a year at least. I never wanted that book to end. I’m not picky about what I read, but I rarely assign 4-5 stars to a book. Most books are 3 stars for me. I define 3 stars as entertaining and/or interesting. A 3-star book is a good solid read. I might be able to put it down, it might take me longer to finish it than a 4 or 5 star book, but I remain invested till the end.
Unfortunately, I give “Lucky Us” 2 stars.
I wanted to love this book, especially since I was going to blog about it. It held such promise and the reviews were solid. The book weaves a journey through the lives of two sisters, Iris and Eva, during the 1940’s. It explores the concept of family, both the family we choose and the family we are born into.
“There were my people: the abandoned, the unloved, the phenomenally unlucky.”
Is the path or course upon which we are set predetermined? Are some of us just “luckier” than others, what part do our choices and decisions play in the twists and turns our lives take? Do we recognize the face of wickedness and deceit as friend or foe? How much does fate decide our present and measure against our future?
“My father quoted everyone, from Shakespeare to Emerson, on the subject of destiny, and then he’d point out that except for the Greeks, everyone agreed: The stars do f***-all for us; you must make your own way.”
Sometimes life can feel as if you are the lion on the cover, walking a tightrope with a zebra on your back, only looking forward, one step at a time.
If the book explored all of these questions and more through the relationship of the two sisters, their father, the friendships made and lost along the way against the backdrop of World War II, it might have been a fascinating read. It certainly held potential.
Potential that in my opinion was never realized.
Iris is vapid, selfish, self-absorbed and vain. Eva is infinitely more likable, but the book didn’t really explore the nuances of her character. Eva is loyal, steadfast and true. She’s incredibly book smart with adaptive survival skills. She blends into her environment, almost to the point of disappearing into it or being such a part of the fabric and nature of it and in such a way that you don’t even realize she’s there but can’t imagine her being gone. She’s the backbone of her little family. She exists peripherally and yet remains the center of it all. Her whole life is a lie. She uses the lie, builds upon it, to make a life for herself, however small it might appear from the outside looking in. She’s brave but she doesn’t think so. She feels unloved, unlucky and forgettable. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t make her altogether likable.
“He said, You know what Oscar Wilde said—women are meant to be loved, not understood. Applies to both of them, darling. And I nodded, although it seemed to me that I was going to be a woman too and I would like it if someone thought they should understand me.”
Eva was the product of an extra-marital affair between her mother and Iris’ father. She was literally abandoned on his doorstep by her mother at the age of 12. Iris’ mother had just died. Both girls were left to raise themselves, dependent only on one another, eventually running away from home and striking it on their own.
Thus begins the story…
The father interjects himself back into their lives. They find a surrogate father of sorts, a best friend and companion. Love and friendships are found and lost and found again. The idea of family is reshaped and rebuilt throughout the novel. Eva and Iris lose each other along the way but perhaps find themselves.
The best I can say about this book is that the chapters were short and there were only 29 of them. The book felt like a movie preview. You get the idea or theme of the movie, a sneak peek at some of the best bits and a general overview of the subject matter. You know which actors are playing the parts. You know who wrote and directed the movie. You know just enough to hopefully wet your appetite for more. Hence the whole point of the preview, to bring you back, invest in a ticket. Imagine if the preview was all you ever got and the actual movie was never made or released. How disappointed you might feel, bereft, like you lost something you never fully possessed but believed that you wanted.
That’s how this book reads. You get snippets and sneak peeks but it’s just a snapshot. Each chapter reflecting a glimpse, a momentary glance into the lives of Eva and Iris. It felt like it was written in a hurry. Each chapter promising something it never quite delivers. There were times I actually scrolled back a page (I read everything on my Kindle) thinking I missed something. Ultimately, that’s how the book feels, like you’ve been left out, missing something crucial but you don’t know what or where to look for it. You just know it’s supposed to be there and it’s not. It leaves you feeling unsatisfied and confused.
It will forever be filed under books that made me go
I’ve never really written a book review before which may be obvious reading this blog post. I write short review snippets on FB or Instagram. I share what I want to read, what I’m currently reading and what I’ve read but I’ve never really attempted to write a full-fledged review. I hate reviews that contain all sorts of spoilers, so I’ve kept this review deliberately vague in regards to storyline details and plot twists. I figure if anyone is interested they will pick it up and decide for themselves. That’s the beauty of books.
The end of the book did tie everything up quite nicely I suppose. It uses the image of a photograph to tell the rest of the story. The story after the story. It provides closure, nothing is left open-ended or unanswered.
“Lucky Us” was published in July, 2014 with 256 pages. Amy Bloom has published other novels which I’ve never read and this book didn’t make me want to pursue further writings from her.
Of course, this is just my opinion. Books are so subjective. I rarely read reviews, and I don’t normally use them as a basis for buying a book. Different subjects appeal to me at different times in my life. I go thru reading stages. I could read 3 books in a week or take 3 months to read 1 book depending on my mood and schedule. I love losing myself in a book, being transported to another time and place. If I can identify easily with a character, personally invest myself in the outcome, then I’m usually hooked. My goal is to be entertained, sometimes I learn something, about myself or others. Sometimes a book makes me question my thoughts or opinions, take measure of the status quo. Books can be provocative or introspective. Books can challenge what you think and how you think. I love all kinds of books and I get something out of every one I read. I’m passionate about books and wish I could do a better job of translating that passion to paper.
You may not pick up this particular book and read it, but I encourage you to read something. Engage your mind or uplift your spirit, transport yourself to another time or space, invest for learning or pleasure, just pick up a book (or your kindle) ❤
“The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.” Abraham Lincoln
Again, the theme is luck, enjoy my other blogger friends and their individual projects.