Immediately on the heels of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves I read another novel about sisters. The two sisters in Lucky Us, Eva and Iris, come together in an unexpected way. They share a father, but know nothing of each other’s existence until Iris’s mother dies. Eva and her mother, the father’s mistress, show up at his house for the first time and Eva’s mother abandons here there with the father she barely knows and a sister she’s never met. Both girls are teenagers, and the quiet, supportive Eva is quickly drawn into the orbit of talented, dramatic Iris, who dreams of Hollywood stardom. As soon as practical, the two teenaged girls leave their feckless father behind and head for California.
The adventures of Eva and Iris — and their father, and Iris’s makeup artist, and the woman Iris falls in love with, and that woman’s husband, and a large, varied cast of characters — unfold against a colourful backdrop of 1940s America on a stage that takes the girls from Ohio to California to New York — and sends some of the characters even farther afield. I found that the cast of characters was sometimes too large — there were chapters from the viewpoint of characters whose point of view I didn’t feel like I really needed to know. Also, some epistolary chapters didn’t work well for me — the letters seem more like vehicles for conveying information the author wants to tell us, rather than letters anyone would actually write or send. Despite these flaws, Lucky Us is a big, sprawling, intriguing portrait of people trying to scrabble their way towards a version fo the American dream in the middle of the twentieth century.