Summary and book reviews of Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

Lucky Boy

by Shanthi Sekaran

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran X
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2017, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2017, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sharry Wright
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About this Book

Book Summary

A gripping tale of adventure and searing reality, Lucky Boy gives voice to two mothers bound together by their love for one lucky boy.

Solimar Castro Valdez is eighteen and drunk on 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. As Kavya learns to be a mother - the singing, story-telling, inventor-of-the-universe kind of mother she fantasized about being - she builds her love on a fault line, her heart wrapped around someone else's child.

Lucky Boy is an emotional journey that will leave you certain of the redemptive beauty of this world. There are no bad guys in this story, no obvious hero. From rural Oaxaca to Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto to the dreamscapes of Silicon valley, author Shanthi Sekaran has taken real life and applied it to fiction; the results are moving and revelatory.

Prologue

Clara, patron saint of television and eye disease, stood three feet tall in the church at the end of the road. The road was known generally as la calle, for it was the only one in the village, narrow, sprouting caminos and footpaths as it went. Scattered along it were one church, one store and a one-room schoolhouse, recently closed. The road ended in a small square, where the town hall stood, and a cantina with the town's only television. It sat on a foldaway table, and when the men weren't hunched around it watching the football, it spun lazy afternoon offerings of love and betrayal, murder and long-lost sons.

Clara, beauty of Assisi, nobleman's daughter, ran away one night to a friar at the roadside, was brought to Saint Francis and shorn. Her hair fell like cornsilk to the ground and she traded her dress for a rough brown habit. She walked barefoot and lived in silence and begged for her daily bread. But she didn't mind. She'd fallen in love ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The narrative alternates between Soli and Kavya. Did you relate to one woman more than the other? If so, why?
  2. Soli travels to America riding on La Bestia, while Kavya's family arrived by more traditional means. How does this novel portray privileged versus unprivileged immigration? Do you feel differently about immigration after reading the book?
  3. Kavya would be the first to admit she did not live the life her parents pictured for her. How do the expectations of her parents shape her character? Does Kavya's love for Iggy change her understanding of heritage? Does it change her husband's and parents' understanding of heritage?
  4. Is Silvia a good role model for Soli? Why or why not? Is Silvia's one big lie ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The alternate points of view keep the cast of characters and their separate stories rotating at a steady and even pace for the first two-thirds of the novel, intensifying later to nail-biting tension with hair-raising stakes. Towards the end, pages fly as the story careens towards a heartbreaking but emotionally satisfying resolution.   (Reviewed by Sharry Wright).

Full Review (994 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Despite the unsurprising and drawn-out ending, Soli and Kavya are both given sympathetic treatment thanks to the textured rendering of their lives, and readers will be emotionally invested in Nacho's fate.

Booklist
Starred Review. Remarkably empathetic ... Deeply compassionate ... Delivers penetrating insights into the intangibles of motherhood and indeed, all humanity.

Library Journal
Starred Review. By giving both sides equal weight, Sekaran (The Prayer Room) evokes compassion for all the principals involved in the story, which readers will soon realize will not lead to a fully happy conclusion. Despite a few implausible plot twists in the book's last third, the novel is highly recommended and would be a strong choice for book clubs.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Sekaran is a master of drawing detailed, richly layered characters and relationships; here are the subtly nuanced lines of love and expectation between parents and children; here, too are moments of great depth and insight. A superbly crafted and engrossing novel.

Author Blurb Edan Lepucki, New York Times bestselling author of California
How lucky the reader who gets to devour Shanthi Sekaran's extraordinary, necessary novel ... It swept me away and took a little piece of my heart with it. It's a perfect book.

Author Blurb Cristina Henriquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans
Shanthi Sekaran has written a lush and emotionally wrenching novel, and she has written it in some of the most beautiful prose I've read in a long time. This is a fiercely compassionate story about the bonds and the bounds of motherhood and, ultimately, of love.

Author Blurb Molly Antopol, award-winning author of The UnAmericans
Shanthi Sekaran is a wonderful writer - lyrical and astute, compassionate and fearless - and Lucky Boy is a heartfelt and moving novel that challenges our notions of motherhood and the true meaning of home. A deeply beautiful book.

Reader Reviews

Linda Zagon

"Two Hearts and Heartbreak"
Especially with the recent news of immigration, this is a timely read. The genre of this book is fiction. The author writes of Solimar, an undocumented Mexican, who has a treacherous journey to America and gives birth to a baby boy. Kavya an America ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Grupos Beta

In the beginning of Lucky Boy, as Soli makes her way from Mexico to the United States, she spends several nights in a relief camp set up by Grupos Beta, a service agency operated by Mexico's National Institute of Migration (INM), that offers water, shelter, medical aid, and information to migrants at risk.

There are currently 22 Grupos Beta operations in nine Mexican states: Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Tabasco, Chiapas and Oaxaca. Started in 1990 as a kind of border patrol that protects rather than detains migrants, the basic role of the federal entity is to safeguard the human rights of migrants who might face serious dangers and health risks such as heat stroke, dehydration, and hyperthermia ...

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