Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran, review by Sarah Bagby
Lucky Boy is Shanthi Sekaran’s second novel. Set in Berkeley, the timely tale dives deep into the immigrant experience from two disparate perspectives: one of poverty and one of privilege.
Living hand-to-mouth, Soliman Castro-Valdez immigrates to the U.S. illegally from Mexico. When she turned 18 her father paid for the treacherous journey across the border so she could have a better life. “Soli” arrives in Berkeley pregnant, buys a Social Security number, and finds work in a successful and generous single-child family’s home. Once her baby boy is born, Soli states, “I am a mother in Berkeley, but I am not a Berkeley mother.”
In contrast, Kavya Reddy wants to be a Berkeley mother. She is a second generation Indian-American, acutely aware she is not living up to the expectations of her accomplished parents. Kavya and her husband live well, but suffer the strains of an unsuccessful pursuit of starting a family. When tragic circumstances find Soli’s baby boy in state custody, the Reddys take him in, knowing they may have to return this dream boy to Soli.
Sekaran’s compelling novel deftly relates the dangers of illegally crossing the Mexican border into the U.S., how the love of an adoptive or biological mother is interchangeable and pure, and how the dream of a fulfilled life is one of heartbreak and contentment. Lucky Boy thoroughly examines the extent of aspirational risks one takes in pursuit of the "American Dream," where one can rise to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable.
Sarah's review first appeared on 89.1 KMUW. You can listen to the review HERE.