BY NATASIA LANGFELDER
I didn’t open up “Lucky Us” by Amy Bloom expecting a well-developed lesbian character- but it was a great surprise. “Lucky Us” is an ensemble novel, focused around the lives of two sisters, the actions of their deeply flawed parents and the consequences of their own actions. Set in the 1940’s, the book provides a fun, lush landscape for the novel as we follow Eva and Iris across the US.
Bloom is trained as a social worker and has practiced psychotherapy and this comes through in her writing. Sisters Eva and Iris both have very clear, distinct personalities. Even when they are doing wrong, their motivations are laid bare to the reader, which makes us aware of our own wrongdoings and the stories we tell ourselves in order to justify our actions.
The main protagonist in “Lucky Us” is Eva- who starts the novel as a happy 12 year old with a single mother and a father, having a wife and daughter already, only visits on the weekends. When Eva’s father’s wife dies, her mother unceremoniously abandons Eva to her father and half sister, the glamorous Iris. Iris and Eva take to each other immediately. When it becomes clear to Eva that her father has his own issues, Iris and Eva head to LA. At this point in the story, Iris starts picking up some of the narrative work in the form of letters to Eva from a near-distant future. I promise it’s not as confusing as it sounds.
Early in the book, Iris realizes she’s a lesbian. While there is a fun coming out scene, Iris’s story goes far beyond coming out. Iris loves women, she loves her sister and provides for her the best way she knows how- she’s ambitious and talented and calculating. Bloom manages to walk the fine line of having a lesbian character without ignoring her sexuality or making it the character’s only trait. As I’m sure all of you know from reading queer lady fiction- this is incredibly refreshing.
The only sore point of the novel is that it starts out with a bang and doesn’t end quite as strongly. More and more characters are introduced, they pick up the narrative away from Eva and Iris and they just aren’t as interesting as our two plucky heroines. The heart of the story is the love these two sisters have for each other and their struggle to achieve their dreams and make a life for themselves. Sometimes, the extra characters feel like window dressing, or like they wandered into the wrong book by mistake.
More than anything, “Lucky Us” is about love, family and responsibility. If you find people who will be there for you when you’re high and when you’re low, you’re pretty lucky.
What do you think? Will you be reading “Lucky Us” anytime soon?