LUCKY YOU by Erika Carter

luckyyou
Publisher: Counterpoint
Release Date: March 1, 2017
Source: Book of the Month Club Selection
Rating: ★★½


Three women, early twenties, find themselves aimlessly adrift in Erika Carter’s fierce and darkly funny debut novel, Lucky You. Ellie, Chloe and Rachel are friends (sort of); waitresses at the same tired bar in the Arkansas college town they’ve stuck around in too long. Each is becoming unmoored in her own way: Ellie obliterates all feeling with alcohol and self-destructive acts of sexual promiscuity; Chloe pulls out patches of her hair and struggles to keep incipient mental illness at bay; changeable Rachel has fallen under the sway of a messianic boyfriend with whom she’s agreed to live off-grid for a year in order to return to “health” and asks Ellie and Chloe to join them in “The Project”. In a remote, rural house in the Ozarks, nearly undone by boredom and the brewing tension between them, each tries to solve the conundrum of being alive.

By turns funny, knowing and hauntingly sad, Lucky You delivers the kind of study in damage and detachment that made Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior or Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays so memorable. With startling exactitude and wickedly deadpan humor, it lays bare the emotional core of its characters with surgical precision. The writing is deft and controlled, as natural and unforced as breath–which makes it impossible to look away.


I’ve been debating over how to rate this book. (This was my January 2017 Book of the Month Club selection.) It held my attention, but at the same time I had problems with it. It left me shaking my head, thinking what was the point?

Normally I would pass on a book about twenty-somethings trying to find themselves, but LUCKY YOU is set in Arkansas, and I have a thing for Arkansas, especially the Ozark Mountains. So, I gave it a try. The setting was wonderful, loved the descriptions, but the characters and plot were another story.

Ellie, Chloe, and Rachel were just flat-out unpleasant, and their backstories were lacking. It wasn’t clear to me why they behaved as they did. So, they become part of a project, living off the grid to escape the “Old World” and all the “unhealth” in it. Sounds fine, but I was disappointed in the results. The chapters alternate between each woman, then about halfway through, Chloe disappears, and the others have to finish up her story. Why ignore a main character?

Sad story. Sad characters. Unfortunately I missed the dark humor the blurb mentions. Haunting ― maybe, funny ― no.

Advertisements