Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran– 480 pages
ARC courtesy of Netgalley and GP Putnam
Solimar Castro Valdez is eighteen and dazed with optimism when she embarks on a perilous journey across the US/Mexican border. Weeks later she arrives on her cousin’s doorstep in Berkeley, CA, dazed by first love found then lost, and pregnant. This was not the plan. But amid the uncertainty of new motherhood and her American identity, Soli learns that when you have just one precious possession, you guard it with your life. For Soli, motherhood becomes her dwelling and the boy at her breast her hearth.
Kavya Reddy has always followed her heart, much to her parents’ chagrin. A mostly contented chef at a UC Berkeley sorority house, the unexpected desire to have a child descends like a cyclone in Kavya’s mid-thirties. When she can’t get pregnant, this desire will test her marriage, it will test her sanity, and it will set Kavya and her husband, Rishi, on a collision course with Soli, when she is detained and her infant son comes under Kavya’s care.
My Review: 4 stars
Lucky Boy is the story of a small child whose Mexican immigrant mother, Solimar, and his Indian foster mother, Kavya, are caught in a legal battle for him. This book reads luminously while covering many intense topics and I found many beautiful quotes worth sharing.
I recently read The Same Sky, which touches on the very same issues of undocumented pregnant woman, infertility, the horrors of riding La Bestia train and many other potent social issues. With that book simmering in the back of my mind, it was hard not to compare the two stories and writing styles. This was often troublesome for me, so I made a conscious effort to separate the two.
Finding both women protagonists in this novel to be strong, capable and loving caretakers made this hard to read at times. They both deserved to be mothers. Young Ignacio, the toddler in question, would be okay in either woman’s care yet where would he thrive, where was he safest, and should that even matter if his mother is alive and well? With our current policy on immigration, this book couldn’t be timelier. This author allowed the reader to step in the shoes of both women and feel their pain as different as they were.
I enjoyed watching Kavya’s husband become a father as much as he was scared of the prospect and expectations that came with the title. He was a likeable character and was incredibly and unusually supportive of his wife’s many meltdowns.
There were many minor characters within the story that either worked for me or didn’t. For example, I would’ve liked more closure with the Cassidy family, who were so instrumental in Soli’s life. Preeti and Ven never captured my attention and I wasn’t sure of the author’s intent in adding them. Additionally, I wished I knew more about Miquel, the sous chef and friend of Kavya, who was likely an undocumented person as well.
The ending seemed just, as there was no right answer. This book could’ve had a “choose your own ending” and I think even the most inspired reader would’ve been hard pressed to pick a side. This will certainly light up a book club with a variety of topics to discuss. I look forward to reading more from this author.
Quotes I liked:
This thing, growing inside and filling her breasts with promise, this thing was the same as her. It matched her better than anything or anyone she’d known.”
– “She wanted a self of her self. She wanted a child.”
– “The thing about patience was that it couldn’t exist without impatience.”
– “Having a child was like turning inside out and exposing to the world the soft pulp of her heart.”
-“Motherhood was her dwelling, the boy at her breast her hearth.”
– “Failure is knowledge. Nothing more.”
– “She learned the lesson that all women learn, sooner or later: if there was something to be done, she’d have to do it herself.”
-“The difference between panic and despair was hope.”
– “She saw that impossibility was only ignorance shrouded by poverty.”