In Lucky Boy, 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. 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.
I received an eARC from the publisher, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
After finishing Lucky Boy, I can’t help but feel very conflicted about it. As the summary says, there’s no obvious hero or villain in this story.
This is a family saga that centers around Ignacio, a sweet, very loved boy. Solimar is his birth mother, and Kavya and Rishi become his foster parents. This book was heartbreaking, beautiful and full of love for this little boy.
The way that Soli was treated by the American justice system is disgusting, and it breaks my heart that her story is probably not dissimilar to others who are in the ICE system. Keeping a mother away from her child for the mere crime of crossing the border and wanting to live a better life is frankly unacceptable.
Kavya and Rishi’s struggle to conceive tugged at my heartstrings, because it’s a struggle that so many have been through, especially with the way that motherhood is so tied into womanhood in so many cultures.
I got to the last forty pages and realized there was no way there would be a happy ending here, so I hope you won’t expect that. There’s no real resolution for one of the families in this saga, but at the same time, it’s the only way this story could have realistically ended. However, the ending really didn’t sit well with me, because it felt like Kavya and Rishi just moved on with their lives.
This was closer to a three and a half star book for me, but I’ve rounded it up to four, because I don’t do half stars here, and the writing was just beautiful.
~ Shanthi Sekaran was born and raised in California, and now splits her time between Berkeley and London. A graduate of UC Berkeley and the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, she was first published in Best New American Voices 2004 (Harcourt). You can find out more about Shanthi at her website.
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