The best books are often the ones that grab you by the collar and hook you so thoroughly that you can’t stop reading, no matter the time of day, no matter other pressing responsibilities. Sometimes, we need books that don’t present complex philosophical insights or force us to consider world problems, but rather books with a wonderful story that is engaging and fun to read. “Lucky,” by Marissa Stapley is a perfect example of a novel in which the main character, Lucky, is a sympathetic and likable person. We like her immediately and want to keep reading to see where her madcap life will take her next. We learn about her at three stages of her life: as an infant abandoned in front of a church; as a child growing up with her charming grifter father; and in her current situation as it grows more and more dire.
Lucky’s father told her, over and over as she was growing up, how lucky she is. But she doesn’t feel lucky growing up in a peripatetic lifestyle, never attending school, never staying in one place because when you are defrauding people out of money, it’s best to disappear after the scam. Lucky’s one wish is to live with her father in an actual home, where he works a normal job, and she gets to attend school and make friends. That is not to be. We understand how guilty Lucky feels about the scams, and we get a sense of her moral integrity in spite of being reared by someone who is completely amoral.
Stapley does a superb job revealing, little by little, how Lucky’s life has come to the point where she defrauded investors out of their savings, put the money in an overseas account, and is now on the run from government agents searching for her. We also know that while reenacting a tradition that she and her father had, buying a lottery ticket with her special numbers, she ended up with a winning ticket. For a huge jackpot. But as a fugitive, she can’t cash it in.
So she’s on the run from the law and doesn’t know whom she can turn to. She’s extremely intelligent and resourceful. But luck and street smarts only go so far in a world that demands passports and ID for sometimes mundane tasks (like travel and cashing lottery tickets). Can she find the mother who left her and her father when Lucky was an infant? Can she trust anyone? While Lucky is worrying about her next moves, we are also learning more about exactly what happened when Lucky was left on the church steps as a newborn. And we wonder how, and if, those two timelines and sets of people will converge.
Shapley does present some important questions for us to consider: How does a basically moral person like Lucky end up making the choices that she does? Is moral integrity in our genes, or does it depend on how we are raised? Is there such a thing as someone truly turning over a new leaf?
This is a book that you’ll want to read in one sitting. I did. And the story will stay with you as you think about Lucky and some of the other characters in the story. Shapley cleverly alternates the narrative with the different timelines and ends a chapter about her current troubled situation on a cliffhanger, then returns the narrative to Lucky’s past. The result is that we keep reading, wanting to know how what happens next in her current situation, making us read page after page in this engrossing story. Don’t analyze the action or how neatly the ending is tied up — just enjoy the read.
This review was first posted on Bookreporter.com.