Book Reviews

Review: Lucky Boy by Shanti Sekaran

Lucky Boy by Shanti Sekaran

To love profoundly, and be loved. To shape her own blood and body into sparkling new life. She could be home to someone, a safe and soft place in a world of ragged edges.

This book is incredibly emotional, complex, and builds up to a suspenseful finish. The characters feel unbelievably real and the plot takes you on a roller coaster of small joys and large challenges. Lucky Boy tells the story of two women Solimar and Kavya, one for whom motherhood falls unexpectedly on, and another whose quest for motherhood is an uphill battle. Soli’s life is fraught with obstacles and one which results in her separation from her child, whom Kavya fosters and falls in love with (while being told from the start that her status as a mother is impermanent). These two women’s lives make for an intense plot that exposes their fallibilities and makes us question our own opinions on motherhood, the American Dream, and our sense of right and wrong.

She’d come to Berkley to find herself, but found that her self was not enough. She wanted a self of her self. She wanted a child.

Let me begin with the characters, who are, on the one hand, so endearing, yet also frustrating. I wanted to yell at them, to shake them, to get them to act differently. But these characters are undeniably human and totally wrapped up in their own mistakes and obsessions. At the same time that you want to give up on them, their struggle and inescapable situation wins you back.

Soli is unable to trust a system, acting in illegal ways, but she is forced to because every system she is involved in abuses her. Kavya falls in love almost instantly with Soli’s child, Ignacio, and her inability to see the reality of Soli’s presence (even the ghost of it), can become infuriating. However, like most of us, she falls in love with what she cannot have, denying the truth she cannot bear to see, and so we can understand her possessive love. There are no clear good and bad guys, no one we can really hate, because we can see their motivations.

They had killed a piece of her, those men. Now that she could be still, safe in the light, she sensed something heavy and dead within. She would use it one day, that heavy dead thing. She would care for it like a baby. She would relish its violence. And one day, it would serve her well.

What really moved me was Soli’s story: the unjust actions against her and her unwavering love for her child. Together these two factors won me over and I was team Soli for the whole book. I could see all the arguments for Kavya and feel her love emanating from the pages, but Soli’s struggles were larger and more gruesome. The contrast between their lives is like night and day.

I felt Kavya’s pain and her love, but in the end, I just wanted Soli to be reunited with the child she never expected, but loved with every fiber of her being. The ending, while not entirely unexpected, was unsatisfying in a way that is essential to the story. For these characters, in their different ways, the system of motherhood, family, and the legal system is unwinnable. Soli’s story where she suffers injustice after injustice is hard to read, but it does not shy away from the exploitation and her pain.

She’d painted her days with a veneer of falsehood – her vert existence in a country a falsehood, a secret, an unknown – and had been doing so for so long that the reality of what she knew and didn’t know lay hidden.

This book is released at the perfect time, when immigration is at the forefront of discussion. But to look only at the political aspects, would minimize the heart of the story, which is a thorough examination of our struggles with motherhood (and our status as women), the intensity of love that demands sacrifice, and the resolute determination that only becoming a parent can bring out. I will mention that the only, potential, con is that the story takes a long time to come together and it is pretty long. You need to be patient and open minded in order to allow the story to bloom and evolve.

Normally, when we fall in love, it feels at first very much like we’re falling, like we’re plummeting down a well shaft of desire. But as time passes and we come to know our lovers, we see that there are things about them that are less than dreamlike. Okay, we say, so he spits his rice when he talks. So she snores like a tractor…These are things, we tell ourselves, that we can live with. And these are things that slow the fall, that bring us to a nice comfortable drift, where we can love without aching, and shift our gaze from the abyss below to the road ahead.

For those who are not craving a quick read, but a thorough plot that builds and rewards you with human characters and hard choices, I recommend you this novel and you can buy it here.

Motherhood is so different for everyone and reading about it is really interesting. What is the best mother in a story you read?

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.

Book cover from here.

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