Monday, August 10, 2015

Summer of My Amazing Luck: A Novel

Lucy Von Alstyne sends fictitious letters to her friend Alicia, pretending to be the father of Alicia's twins, and the two welfare mothers and their five children set off on a journey to find him, facing along the way the complications of living in poverty and raising fatherless children.

Originally published in Canada in 1996, this light treat by the author of A Complicated Kindness and A Boy of Good Breeding sees 18-year-old single mother Lucy Van Alstyne join the nouveau poor on the dole in Winnipeg, Manitoba. At a public housing complex nicknamed Half-A-Life, mothering is the noblest calling and absent fathers are as relevant as orbiting "space junk." Lucy doesn't know which of "eight or nine" fleeting lovers fathered her infant son, Dillinger (named after John Dillinger, who Lucy insists is a lucky man and still alive); her fast friend Alicia fantasizes about reuniting with the fire-eating juggler who got her pregnant with twins during a one-night stand several years earlier. Lucy fabricates letters to Alicia from the fire-eater, and the two women and their five kids set off to search for him. The novel offers a humorous look at the absurdities of the Canadian welfare system while unwinding the intricacies of a sticky-sweet friendship. (Aug.)
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Eighteen-year-old Lucy isn't sure who the father of her nine-month-old son, Dillinger, is: "Usually, I just enjoyed Dill without wondering how exactly he got here." Her closest friend is wild, dynamic Lish, a young mother who, like Lucy, lives on the dole in a Winnipeg housing project. In a voice that's vulnerable, observant, and deadly funny, Lucy describes a summer among the projects' eccentric residents: the hippies, who heal earaches with onions; the refugees of abusive and lost love; and open, bohemian Lish, who helps Lucy face her own sorrows and confusions. The author of A Complicated Kindness (2004) and A Boy of Good Breeding (2006) offers another memorable portrait of a struggling young person who finds unexpected resilience and peace: "That should be the mark of success . . . just a general feeling of happiness," says Lucy. While the vivid scenes don't add up to a cohesive whole, readers will return to the hilarious, heartbreaking dialogue and the poignant questions about finding love, making a life, and discovering how stories and secrets impact others. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

..".a comic take on what initially appears to be a most improbable topic for works."

Most helpful customer reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful.
5Miriam Toew's First Novel is an unlikely vehicle for humour
By A Customer
Summer of My Amazing Luck, Miriam Toew's first novel, tells the story of single mothers who inhabit the fictional "Have-A-Life"- (A.K.A."Half-A-Life") welfare project in downtown Winnipeg. Single mom's on welfare seems an unlikey basis for humour, but Summer of My Amazing Luck, shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Humour Prize in 1997, is gut-busting, laugh-out-loud hilarity. Told through the eyes of eighteen-year-old Lucy, who lives at "Half-a-Life" with her baby boy "Dillinger", we meet the Lucy's older, more worldly confident, the eccentric Lish, who's raising three young daughters, and is in deparate search for her one true love, a fire-eater from Colorado, the father of her twins.On the backdrop of Winnipeg's mosquito infested rainy season, Lucy and Lish try to make homes for their children, and find love and contentment in their own lives; we pity, admire and love them for it. Summer of My Amazing Luck is a wonderful book, and a tribute to mothers everywhere.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful.
5Single mothers' Canadian club
By D. P. Birkett
Lucy, the first person narrator, and Lish are unwed mothers living in public housing in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a place where Fargo is considered the warm south. Lucy does not know the father of her child because "if you eat a whole can of beans how can you tell which one gave you gas." There are so many unfathered children in the building that their version of the alphabet song is "ABCDEFGHIJKalimony please". Both Lucy and Lish have difficult relationships with conventional respectable unsupportive (in the emotional sense) fathers of their own. These relationships form a faint thread of a plot, although the novel is largely made up of the intersecting stories of the other mothers in the building.

I was reminded of Adrian Leblanc's serious non-fiction "Random Family." That's a great book but Toew's is better, and actually contains more information about the singles mother's predicament, and offers more insight into her motivation, as well as being hilariously funny..

Once again we have a great Canadian female writer. Why is Canada the only country where a list of the top five writers cannot be made up that is not predominantly female?

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful.
3Interesting. Everything but the kitchen sink included.
By A Customer
Two single mothers living hand-to-mouth grapple with their desires to be loved and accepted and the relentless search for meaning in life. Ranges from humorous to pathetic. Leaves the reader with understanding, pity, and possibly even admiration for the unlikely heroines.

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