Booked Up

A Fabulous Journey Through the 1940s

Amy Bloom’s Lucky Us is a big, rambling old fashioned novel that’s a ton of fun.

By - Oct 10th, 2014 11:45 am
Lucky Us by Amy Bloom.

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom.

Lucky Us is a rambling, old-fashioned novel that reminds me of the epic reads of the 1950s and ‘60s. This is a big book, by Amy Bloom, that spans the 1940s with dozens of characters, both real and fictional. Ostensibly the story of two step sisters trying to survive in World War II America, it becomes an epic description of upheaval and changing mores as society remade itself.

The two young women are thrown together when the elder, Iris, loses her mother. Younger Eva is abandoned by her mother on the porch of the dead woman’s home. When the two realize that they are stuck with their ne’er-do-well father, they run away to make their fortune in wartime Hollywood.

The Hollywood episodes are colorful and racy, from movie studio antics to lesbian orgies, with lots of name dropping in between.

When Hollywood crusaders decide to rid the industry of “the gay menace,”

Iris, Eva, their newly reemerged father, and a Hollywood make-up man drive cross-country and reinvent themselves again. This time, they morph into exclusive domestics for Long Island’s nouveau riche. Here, more forbidden love is discovered. The cast of characters grows with new and varied additions from across America’s social strata.

While Iris tries to carve out an acting career on Broadway, Eva finally comes into her own. She transforms into a tarot reader at the Bella Donna Beauty Parlor and starts to be independent from her dysfunctional family. A child joins them, a lover for their father appears, and a wartime spy is accused.

Much of this action and intrigue is revealed through letters and diary entries. This epistolary structure gives real depth to the characters’ inner lives. Through this method, we learn many details of Jewish life and custom. We are taken inside an American internment camp for German- and Japanese-Americans. We enter the horrors of life in Europe after the war ends. And we revel in the victories of survival in the relocation camps.

This novel takes many unannounced turns and twists. This unpredictability may turn off some readers. But, if you love a juicy read with scope and historic detail, there is much to enjoy here. Ms. Bloom has done her homework and drops delicious period tidbits throughout the mounting incidents. It’s often like a wonderful vacation spent with a dozen well-realized characters. Lucky Us would make a great companion on a long voyage. It’s a trip I’d recommend.

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Upcoming Book Events:

Friday, October 10 (7:00 PM): Steven Pinker, author of The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, at Boswell Book Company, 2559 N. Downer Ave., Milwaukee. (414) 332-1181

Friday, October 10 to Sunday, October 12: Lynden Sculpture Garden Writer-in-Residence: Poetry as Pluralistic Process with Cole Swensen, at Lynden Sculpture Garden, 2145 West Brown Deer Road, Milwaukee. Co-sponsored by Woodland Pattern Book Center.

Saturday, October 11 (4:00 PM): Reading/signing with Andrew Grey, author of Love Comes Around and Under the Stars, writing as Geoff Laughton, at Outwords Books, Gifts & Coffee, 2710 N. Murray Avenue, Milwaukee.(414) 963-9089

Sunday, October 12 (11:00 AM): Story Time with Jannis. Jannis will read I’m Brave! by Kate & Jim McMullan and a few more stories on the theme of transportation at Boswell Book Company. Perfect for ages 18 months and up.

Sunday, October 12 (3:00 PM): Jennifer Holland, author of Unlikely Heroes: 37 Inspiring Stories of Courage and Heart from the Animal Kingdom, at Boswell Book Company. Co-sponsored by The Wisconsin Humane Society.

Monday, October 13 (7:00 PM): Outwords Men’s Reading Group
discusses Firefly by Janette Jenkins at Outwords Books, Gifts & Coffee.
Everyone is welcome to join in the discussion.

Tuesday, October 14 (6:30 PM): Book Launch with Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, author and illustrator of Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, at Boswell Book Company. Appropriate for ages 4 up.

Tuesday, October 14 (7:00 PM): Lesbian Reading Group discusses Let the Lover Be by Sheree L. Greer at Outwords Books, Gifts & Coffee. New members always welcome!

Wednesday, October 15 (7:00 PM): Deborah Crombie, author of To Dwell in Darkness, at Boswell Book Company.

Wednesday, October 15 (7:00 PM): Reading by Meg Day and Nikki Wallschlaeger at Woodland Pattern Book Center, 720 East Locust Street, Milwaukee. (414) 263-5001

Thursday, October 16 (7:00 PM): Milwaukee Professor Tami Williams, author of Germaine Dulac: A Cinema of Sensations, at Boswell Book Company.

Send your book club picks and author event information to me at or on Facebook at And good reading!

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