Review: Lucky You

Erika Carter’s debut novel Lucky You is an brand new/upcoming 2017 release that I received in my first Book of the Month Club box. This book is only available through Book of the Month until its scheduled release date in March, so I was excited to be able to read it a little earlier than most. If you’re looking for a great book for this spring/summer, read below to find out why I think this one would make a great pick.

About the book: Rachel is the sort of luckyyougirl who needs a cause. So when she decides to save the environment with her rich, egotistical boyfriend, she sets off to live in a run-down house in the Ozarks with a self-sustained lifestyle. Ellie is the sort of girl who believes that if she can’t see the trouble she’s caused for herself, it no longer exists. No matter what she does, she thinks can run away and start over if things get too difficult, so that’s what she does: drops everything and moves out to the Ozarks to join her friend’s cause without telling anyone but Rachel. And Chloe is the sort of girl who listens for voices in the static of the turntable and the “speaker holes” of the shower head. She’s pulling her hair out by the roots, but won’t admit she has a problem. Chloe is susceptible to believing what she’s told, so when Rachel tells her that moving out to the Ozarks with the others will make Chloe’s life healthier and happier, she listens and makes the switch. But it turns out four people can find just as much trouble off the grid, and their problems are not as easily ignored as they once imagined.

“It was warm and overcast when she left. There was something irresistible about leaving without telling anyone. It was like jumping on a train leaving town, tearing through the landscape, like the kind of character Crush Heat Burn sang about.”

This book is told through three perspectives and is divided into parts rather than chapters. The timeline is navigated by flagged months and years at the beginnings of the sections. I really enjoyed that loose sort of chronology to specific dates. (Am I the only one who can never keep track of the dates in books?) Separating time this way and alternating between characters really gives each section its own aura and helps the reader understand each character’s situation at its vital points even if the characters themselves remain just out of reach. There’s something disagreeable about each of them, and yet they all have thoughts we’ve thought before and can’t quite resist.

“People love stuff so much they just have to go and ruin it.”

“She watched until they were gone. A violent emptiness took over, a brutal vacant space; it was almost pleasant.”

This story is filled with irredeemable characters, but they’re intentionally unlikable. The book mocks them, and you have to keep reading to see what disaster they come up with next. We all know those people who say something and seem to mean it entirely, but even as they speak we know it’ll only be a matter of time before they turn a complete 180 and just as adamantly stand on the opposite side of the debate. These are people who are trying to fool themselves, and then wonder why they’re spinning in circles. But at the same time, as ridiculous as they are, they’re also completely ordinary. Readers can sympathize with the characters’ destructive impulses, the urge to have a cause just for the feeling of belonging to something greater than the self, the feeling of wanting a change so badly that it doesn’t even matter what the change is or whether it sticks–it’s just something to do that’ll open new doors.

“But Rachel would say no, a thing doesn’t just happen, you have to force it to happen, and then by the time you get it–it seems natural.”

“Soon she would quit doing ridiculous stuff like this. When her real life started, she would quit humiliating herself with ridiculous behavior.”

I found that this book would’ve made a better summer read than winter, although the timeline actually spans around two full years. The lazy, oppressive heat of summer from the middle of this book is really what stuck with me–the rest felt like “before” and “after.”  The whole narrative span, however, shares the same seedy and atmospheric quality that made the places feel like reflections of the people in them, and infinitely more real. There’s grit to Lucky You, and it’s this undeniable sense of difficulty and unpleasantness around the three main girls that prevent the reader from writing them off entirely. They’re bleeding souls, and they have reasons to bleed, but only the reader can see that their efforts to pick off the scabs are hurting rather than helping their chances.

“She had so many former selves now; she worried she would unravel and divide into all the copies she’d made of herself.”

“She didn’t want to be on nodding terms with any of her former selves. It made the world feel small. She worried, sometimes desperately worried, that all her previous lives were going to catch up with her.”

The end resonates with the beginning, giving a sense that nothing has really changed. This is the sort of ending that drives some readers mad, but I love it because it feels like real life. The end of a story is rarely the end–and Lucky You is a book that admits that. One of the main points I drew from this book is that people can go around and around in circles. That’s not to say there’s no resolution or character growth–but clearly no one’s perfect yet by the end, just as no one in reality is perfect, even after learning some tough lesson.

“She was twenty-three, and she’d done nothing. Would she still be nothing at twenty-four? Twenty-five? Thirty?”

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. This is the kind of book that isn’t addicting as much as it is resonating. I didn’t feel that can’t-put-it-down compulsion to keep going, but after I put it down, little details would nag at me constantly until I picked it back up again, and then I had new fodder for thought until I picked it up again. This kind of narration is the stuff that’ll stick with you all day.

Further recommendations:

  1. The Girls by Emma Cline feels like an obvious comparison. Although the characters in this book aren’t in a cult, the narration has that same sort of mindless quality–the characters are floating through life, following friends and odd urges and learning about life by separating themselves from it. They’re older than the narrator of The Girls, but they have that same loyalty to each other, to a cause, that sets them on questionable paths and features those same relatable statements about what it means to be alive and not quite know where you’re going. The Girls is a fictional take on the Charles Manson cult and murders of the 1960’s.

What’s next: I’ve just finished reading Alice Hoffman’s newest novel, Faithful, a tragic coming-of-age story about a young woman who lost her best friend as a teen and is trying to learn how to move on with her life. I found it very powerful and oddly relatable–also packed full of dogs–and I can’t want to share my thoughts on this one with you tomorrow.

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

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