Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-10-03
- Reviewer: Staff
Sekarans second novel (after The Prayer Room) humanizes the issue of illegal immigration. Born in a small, impoverished village in Mexico, teenage Soli makes the dangerous journey across the border to the U.S. and ends up in Berkeley, Calif., living with her cousin, Silvia, and working as housekeeper to the well-to-do Cassidy family. In a parallel story, Kavya Reddy and her techie husband, Rishi, frustrated at their inability to get pregnant, decide to adopt. Having become pregnant en route to the U.S., Soli gives birth to a little boy she nicknames Nacho. Arrested, she is sent to immigrant detention and Nacho is placed in foster care, where he eventually comes to the attention of Kavya and Rishi, who attempt to adopt the boy. But they find there is a steep learning curve in becoming instant parents. From her cell in Washington State, Soli fights the Reddys for custody of her son. With the odds stacked against her, she is left with no choice but to make a desperate bid for freedom for herself and her son. Sekaran has made sure to tell a story without obvious villains (except for government functionaries). Despite the unsurprising and drawn-out ending, Soli and Kavya are both given sympathetic treatment thanks to the textured rendering of their lives, and readers will be emotionally invested in Nachos fate. Agent: Lindsay Edgecombe, Levine, Greenburg, Rostan Agency. (Jan.)
What makes a family?
Kavya and Rishi Reddy, successful Indian-American immigrants living in a charming Berkeley bungalow, have the sort of life that Checo and Soli are hoping for as they set out to cross the border from Mexico. Yet Checo and Soli, teenagers with little more than uncompromising determination and invincible spirit, have the one thing that Kavya and Rishi do not. Ignacio El Viento Castro Valdez, conceived somewhere in the deserts of Mexico, is the lucky boy that unites the two couples’ stories.
Just when Soli thinks she might make it in America, she gets caught and put in immigration detention with a likely outcome of deportation back to Mexico. As a U.S. citizen born after Soli’s arrival, her 1-year-old son, Ignacio, enters the foster care system and is placed with Kavya and Rishi, who are unable to have a biological child. Like any good parents, the Reddys take on their new role wholeheartedly, forgetting that Ignacio is someone else’s child.
At its core, Shanthi Sekaran’s compassionate second novel is a spectacular saga of motherhood and the choices we make to achieve it. Supporting the main cast are side characters who lend intriguing perspectives born of their own culture and belief systems: the Cassidys, who employ Soli; Uma, Kavya’s traditionally minded mother; and Silvia, the cousin who takes Soli in.
Lucky Boy resonates, raising important questions about our society and our responsibility to those who seek the American dream, even as it forces you to ask, “What would I do?” This is a multidimensional story with lots of emotion, humor and love, and it will appeal to parents and non-parents alike. Like M.L. Stedman in The Light Between Oceans, Sekaran presents a complex moral dilemma that leaves readers incapable of choosing sides. Lucky Boy is a must-read.