If America has a Victor Hugo, it is Amy Bloom, whose picaresque novels roam the world, plumb the human heart and send characters into wild roulettes of kismet and calamity. Her best known work, “Away,” was an epic adventure set in the early 20th century. In it, a Jewish mother survives a devastating Russian pogrom, comes to America, becomes a famous actor’s mistress, then traverses the country, joins the African American underworld, and crosses Alaska and Siberia in search of her daughter. There are few who feel the immigrant impulse as keenly as Bloom. There are fewer still who understand that Americans are the “lucky us,” the anointed ones who can shuck the past again and again until, by dint of wit and will, we reinvent ourselves. “It’s good to be smart,” a character in Bloom’s new novel tells us; “it’s better to be lucky.”
“Lucky Us” is a bustling tale of American reinvention. Like Hugo, Bloom fills her narrative with surprising twists and turns, betrayals, passions and no little scandal. But unlike Hugo’s, Bloom’s work is blessedly short and suffused with a modern sensibility. Although the setting is World War II and the action takes us from Ohio to Hollywood to Brooklyn, not to mention American internment camps and the bombing of Dresden and Pforzheim, there is nothing old about this story. It moves like today’s news. Read more here.