‘Lucky Boy’ by Shanthi Sekaran Is Thought-Provoking, Diverse Fiction


“Lucky Boy” is the story of two women and the lengths to which they go to have or to keep the child that they both love. The two women have led very different lives.

Solimar comes from a very poor, very rural village in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s so poor that all the young people leave, and there are no students for the school, which closes. Solimar decides to go north to America, where she will have a chance to make money to send back to her parents. Her journey is fraught with danger and disappointment. She ends up pregnant in Berkeley, California.

Kavya is an Indian-American woman whose parents, she thinks, believe that she is a failure. She also compares herself to the daughter of her parents’ good friends, a woman named Preeti, who seems to be the embodiment of everything Kavya wishes she could be. But Kavya is married to a man she loves, and now she wants a child to make their lives perfect. When she does not get pregnant after trying and trying, they decide to foster a child with the intent to adopt.

Ignacio is the child to whom Solimar gives birth after meeting and falling in love with a boy on her journey north. Her cousin Silvia is both her salvation and her damnation. Silvia finds Solimar a wonderful job as a housekeeper. The family decides to keep Solimar as a housekeeper/nanny after she has the baby, so Solimar can keep the baby with her at work. (Spoiler alert) When the unthinkable happens while Solimar is watching the children (she loses track of the children she is watching), Silvia makes things worse and Solimar ends up in a detention center, separated from Ignacio.

Kavya and Rishi become Ignacio’s foster parents. They are enamored with him and desperately want to adopt him. They call him Iggy for short, and their lives revolve around this precious child.

What happens? Will Solimar return to take her biological child? Will Kavya and Rishi get to adopt their beloved Iggy?

The book is written in a style that is poetic, embracing both the mexicana side and the Indian side. The story is told in parts as if it’s a dream, and indeed the ending makes it clear that it could be a dream.

“If this is a story, it’s one with no right ending. If this is a dream, it is a dream made solid, a dream grown to a little boy with a waist and shoulders, calves that wrap around his mother’s hips.”

It’s about mothers’ love — mothers being plural. What makes a mother? Giving birth to a child and suckling that child at one’s breast? Loving and feeding and caring for a child who is not an infant?

Many readers will not like the ending of the story. This reviewer (I am ashamed to admit) had hoped for a “dream” ending with all the parents — Kavya, Rishi and Solimar — living together, sharing the raising of Iggy. That was not to be.

What is most important for a child? To know a “true” mother’s love and live in poverty or to be raised by equally loving people who can provide material comforts, a good education, college? Different people, different mothers, different readers will all have different perspectives on this very weighty, very important question. This would be a great book club book for the lively discussion that very question would engender.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Putnam, for review purposes. 

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