Lucky Us

8 of 10
Lucky Us
256 pages; Random House
The Sweeping (Family) Novel

After the death of her lover's wife, Mrs. Logan sees an opportunity. She scrubs their 12-year-old daughter, Eva, clean; dresses her in pink; and braids her hair. Then the two travel across Ohio to see whether newly widowed Edgar will make her an honest woman. When the proposal fails to materialize, she reverts to plan B, depositing Eva there to be raised by Edgar—a father she's known only from sporadic visits, when he arrived bearing Lucky Strikes and Hershey bars—alongside her imperiously glamorous half sister, Iris. "She looked like a movie star," Eva thinks upon seeing Iris for the first time. And so the grand adventure of Lucky Us, Bloom's kaleidoscopic take on life in the tumultuous '40s, begins.

Indeed, Iris is possessed of a movie star's ambitions, and soon the girls set out for Hollywood, where Iris lands a movie contract while Eva turns to biographies of Marie Curie and Florence Nightingale for company. One night Iris attends a decadent party and tumbles into a seductive netherworld where "a pretty girl with whipped cream and strawberries, laid in thick waves, from her chest to her feet" is served for dessert.

When scandal upends Iris's aspirations, the sisters, accompanied by their father, forsake Hollywood for Great Neck, Long Island, where Edgar fakes his way into a position as a butler and Iris becomes a governess for the wealthy Torelli family. While Eva remains the compliant sidekick, Iris grows increasingly ruthless, especially when struck by desire; in the name of love, no betrayal is too great.

Lucky Us is a tale of a family weathering tragedies intimate and global: World War II rages; Edgar falls ill; Iris loses a lover in a horrific fire. Eva practices tarot at a Brooklyn salon, exacting a measure of control in a world as unpredictable as the cards drawn from her deck. Over time, Eva metamorphoses from a girl who feels aligned with "the abandoned, the unloved, the phenomenally unlucky" to a woman with the courage to make her own luck.

— Laura Van Den Berg