Lucky Boy: A Novel, by Shanthi Sekaran
This is possibly the worst novel I have read in some time. There are bad books that are bad because they are incoherent and lack attention to structure, and there are bad books who are bad because they call evil good, and this book is clearly in the latter camp. From a technical perspective, this novel is well-polished and written by someone who is clearly competent at stringing words together into sentences and creating chapters and structuring a novel, even if it is a bit slow paced in building up to its bathetic climax. Where the book truly fails, and spectacularly fails, is in its framing. The author spends so much time working on putting her ulterior motives  into the book that she forgets the need for the characters to be relatable and appealing. To be sure, the Reddy couple is a bit clueless, but it is with the author’s framing of Soli Valdez and with those who support her as protesters that the book’s framing goes seriously off-kilter. This book is only likely to be appealing to those who have drank the leftist cool-aid of our contemporary culture. For everyone else, the result of reading this book is likely to be a call for building Trump’s wall as soon as possible, even for those of us that are not against legal immigration at all.
The book is structured as a multiple POV novel with a lot of chapters of uneven length focusing on the two mothers who both love one anchor baby named Ignacio. The beginning of the novel is pretty interminable as the author goes over Indian cultural drama and the inability of the Reddy’s to have a child naturally or even through IVF while trying to paint Soli as a heroine for her brave one-woman invasion of the United States in search of a better life. From there the novel only gets worse as it shows the middle class struggles of the Reddy’s and the drama involving their friends/coworkers/bosses and Soli’s life as a professional victim who attracts all kinds of men who want to exploit or abuse her in some fashion while trying to take care of her unborn and then born son. Given that I did not find the book’s framing remotely just nor the heroines of the book (Soli in particular) sympathetic, this book was a real slog to get through. Its ending was rather anticlimactic as well, with some phony moral point to claim that it is wrong to raise someone else’s child as a foster parent when their mother has no right to be in the country in the first place and no civil rights accordingly and the mother ending up not far from where she began.
The only reason I finished this book was because it was part of the CASA book club in our tri-county region, and make no mistake that my views of this novel are particularly harsh. The novel gives a reasonably accurate look at the foster care system and the uncertainties of being a foster parent of children whose birth parents are psychopaths. Unfortunately, when a novel depends on being sympathetic to said psychopaths, it has profoundly failed at its purpose of promoting negative social change through terrible literature. This book made me wonder why that wall isn’t built now and why the author hasn’t been stuck on the other side of it, and why some parts of California haven’t been put under martial law so some rabid dogs can be put down. This was probably not the intended result that the author was aiming for, but given that the framing of the novel is so consistently wicked and the author’s perspective so malign, it is hard to imagine a lot of readers appreciating this volume unless they already buy into the author’s mindset in the first place. This is the sort of book one burns to keep warm, or throws away as a waste of space, at best.
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