Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
Pub. date: January 10th, 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Thanks so much to G. P. Putnam’s Sons and Netgalley for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Eighteen-year old Solimar Valdez undertakes an arduous journey to cross the US/Mexican border, during which she meets and falls in love with a young man. Weeks later, separated from due to a series of events, she arrives in Berkeley, California at her cousin’s house, impregnated and in love, both of which were not part of her plan. However, her cousin gets her a job, and teaches her to keep a low profile so as not to have her legality questioned, and she does just that. She gives birth to a lovely baby boy Ignacio, who becomes Soli’s most precious possession, one she guards with her life. Until one day, the unluckiest set of circumstances result in Soli taken to a detention center, separated from Ignacio.
Kavya Reddy has a stable job, a stable marriage, and a complicated relationship with her mother. She’s looking for more in the fulfillment and happiness department, and is unexpectedly overwhelmed with a desire to become a mother. It becomes her sole focus. She and Rishi struggle with trying to get pregnant, and their marriage goes through the hoops of trying and failing IVF and such. The couple look into adoption, and this is where their lives collide with Soli’s- they end up fostering Ignacio. Kavya takes on the role of mother willingly, although it doesn’t come without its tribulations, and falls in love with this child that is not her own.
There’s several beautiful things about this book. The writing, for starters, is gorgeous. It’ll capture you from the first few pages, the author using it to weave such an emotional story. Sekaran has also done such an excellent job of portraying two strong women, women who in their own rights care so deeply for this child, and will stop at nothing to try and keep him with them. A comparison of their determination and experiences is futile. This is not a story that has a clear winner at the end; but it portrays so many emotions vividly that it leaves you raw and aching.
The book also tackles the reality of the circumstances of undocumented people and immigrants. The sections of the book tackling the legal and judicial systems, the horrific realities of people thrown into detention centers and the terrible choices they are given, made me feel angry and helpless, all at the same time. As someone that has grown up with a lot of chatter of the American dream, the true nature of what that looks like left me disillusioned. Especially in the current political climate, it was very hard not to experience real fear and anxiety when reading Soli’s story.
I can’t say that I wanted the book to end differently. I devoured this book in a couple of days, but I was unable to pick sides. Not that picking sides makes any damn difference in the world, because the entire situation is beyond fucked up and there’s no alternatives for a satisfactory of comforting conclusion. My guts were wrenched, and my heart was torn. I can’t recommend this enough.