Lucky Boy (Sekaran)

Lucky Boy 
Shanthi Sekaran, 2017
Penguin Publishing
480 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781101982242



Summary
Eighteen years old and fizzing with optimism, Solimar Castro-Valdez embarks on a perilous journey across the Mexican border. Weeks later, she arrives in Berkeley, California, dazed by first love found then lost, and pregnant.

This was not the plan.

Undocumented and unmoored, Soli discovers that her son, Ignacio, can become her touchstone, and motherhood her identity in a world where she’s otherwise invisible.

Kavya Reddy has created a beautiful life in Berkeley, but then she can’t get pregnant and that beautiful life seems suddenly empty.

When Soli is placed in immigrant detention and Ignacio comes under Kavya’s care, Kavya finally gets to be the singing, story-telling kind of mother she dreamed of being. But she builds her love on a fault line, her heart wrapped around someone else’s child.

“Nacho” to Soli, and “Iggy” to Kavya, the boy is steeped in love, but his destiny and that of his two mothers teeters between two worlds as Soli fights to get back to him. Lucky Boy is a moving and revelatory ode to the ever-changing borders of love. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1977-78
Where—State of California, USA
Education—B.A., University of California-Berkeley; M.F.A, Johns Hopkins University;
   Ph.D, University of Newcastle-Upon Tyne (UK)
Currently—lives in Berkeley, California


Shanthi Sekaran teaches creative writing at California College of the Arts, and is a member of the Portuguese Artists Colony and the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto.

Sekaran's work has appeared in the New York Times, Best New American Voices and Canteen, and online at Zyzzyva and Mutha Magazine. Her first novel, The Prayer Room was published in 2008 and reissued in 2016. Lucky Boy, her second novel, came out in 2017.

A California native, Sekaran lives in Berkeley with her husband and two children. (Adapted from the publisher.)



Book Reviews
Sekaran has made sure to tell a story without obvious villains.... 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.
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review.) By giving both sides equal weight, Sekaran evokes compassion for all the principals involved in the story, which...will not lead to a fully happy conclusion. Despite a few implausible plot twists in the book's last third, the novel is highly recommended. —Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
Library Journal


Remarkably empathetic...Deeply compassionate...Delivers penetrating insights into the intangibles of motherhood and indeed, all humanity.
Booklist


(Starred review.) Two very different women reckon with pregnancy, childbirth, and the meaning of family.... [Their] heartbreaking journeys [are] bound by love of the baby boy.... Sekaran is a master of drawing detailed, richly layered characters and relationships.... A superbly crafted and engrossing novel.
Kirkus Reviews



 Discussion Questions
1. The narrative alternates between Soli and Kavya. Did you relate to one woman more than the other? If so, why?

2. Soli travels to America riding on La Bestia, while Kavya’s family arrived by more traditional means. How does this novel portray privileged versus unprivileged immigration? Do you feel differently about immigration after reading the book?

3. Kavya would be the first to admit she did not live the life her parents pictured for her. How do the expectations of her parents shape her character? Does Kavya’s love for Iggy change her understanding of heritage? Does it change her husband’s and parents’ understanding of heritage?

4. Is Silvia a good role model for Soli? Why or why not? Is Silvia’s one big lie forgivable?

5. Discuss how the novel explores motherhood. What are some key differences between the way Soli thinks of motherhood and the way Kavya does? In what ways is motherhood the same for both women?

6. When Rishi is asked if he wants a child, he thinks “Children had seemed like a project planted permanently in the future. A certainty about which he never thought he’d be asked. Had anyone asked his own father if he’d wanted a baby?” (p. 54). How does the novel portray fatherhood? Is it different from motherhood? Do you think men plan for children differently than women do?

7. Discuss how Lucky Boy addresses the classic idea of the American dream. Is the American dream still attainable? Has it changed?

8. After giving birth to Nacho, Soli thinks “I’m a mother in Berkeley, but I’m no Berkeley mother” (p. 188). What do you think she means.
 
9. As Soli plans to become a housekeeper in California, she remembers her father telling her that “servitude lives in the heart” (p. 63). How does the novel portray class stratification? Does race play a role in these class divides?

10. From Santa Clara Popocalco to Berkeley, the Weebies campus, and Silicon Valley, the novel paints a vivid portrait of the West. How does this setting shape the novel? Would the story be different if it was set elsewhere in America?

11. Were you shocked by how Soli was treated in immigrant detention? Why or why not?

12. Kavya reasons with herself...

Why did people love children who were born to other people? For the same reason they lived in Berkeley, knowing the Big One was coming: because it was a beautiful place to be, and because there was no way to fathom the length or quality of life left to anyone, and because there was no point running from earthquakes into tornadoes, blizzards, terrorist attacks. Because destruction waited around every corner, and turning one corner would only lead to another” (p. 350).

Do you agree with Kavya’s decision to fight to keep Iggy? Why or why not? Have you ever made a decision you knew might hurt down the line? What about a decision you knew others might not understand?

13. How did you feel about the ending? Were you surprised? Do you think Soli should have made a different choice?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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