The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron with illustrations by Matt Phelan, copyright, 2006, 134 pages. The Higher Power of Lucky tells the story of a young girl living in a remote small town in California. The reading level is 9 to 12 years but as an adult I was just as engrossed in the story and highly recommend it.
The story opens with Lucky eavesdropping on a AA meeting. She hears her neighbor and best friend Short Sammy tell of life before hitting rock bottom. This sort of sets the tone for the book for me. Lucky’s life is no story book fairly tale. The story is set in Hard Pan, California. Pop. 43. It’s a remote town, out in the Californian desert where the only jobs to be had are few and far between. Most of the town are either unemployed, retired and receive government assistance. Lucky has a Guardian named Brigitte, her father’s first ex-wife, who flew from Paris to take care of her after her mother died. One day, after a rainstorm, Lucky’s mother touches some power lines. With her foot. A freak accident that made Lucky an orphan at 8 years old.
Two years later, Lucky is worried that Brigitte will leave her. Brigitte’s family continues to send her gifts from France that makes her homesick. Lucky’s father, who didn’t want kids, sends money to Brigitte but it’s never enough. There are no jobs to be found, they live in a trailer that’s connected to two other trailers and they receive free Government commodities along with the famous Government cheese that no one can seem to eat or cook. Lucky’s a 10 year old girl who keeps a survival backpack with her at all times and admires Darwin. Lucky has dreams of becoming someone famous. Anything really, to keep Brigitte in Hot Pan, California and out of a foster home.
Lucky has a job cleaning up the patio at the Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center where most anonymous meetings are held. Out of three jobs, it’s the only paying job. I think. Smoker’s Anonymous, Alcoholic Anonymous, etc and so forth. Lucky is intrigued by this Higher Power that everybody proclaims to have found when they reach rock bottom. Lucky also has her colorful friends to keep her busy. There’s Lincoln Clinton Carter Kennedy, who is a Knot-tying expert and future presidential candidate. Then there’s my favorite character, Miles, a five year old little boy, who stays with his grandmother and carries around a copy of Are You My Mother? around with him everywhere and who loves to annoy Lucky. Then there’s Short Sammy, 42 year-old living in a water tank house whose dog, Roy, helped him decide to quit drinking for good. There are other colorful characters in town that add to the story as well.
As the story moves along, we see Lucky search for her own “higher power” and comes back realizing some hard truths about herself and life: it’s only after you hit rock bottom that you start to get control of your life. Lucky’s rock bottom for her was realizing that she was alone and that nobody wanted you. That you can’t keep bad things from happening no matter how hard you prepare for them. She worries about being sent to a foster home. She worries that her Guardian will not love her anymore and leave her behind. Lucky has the weight of the world on her shoulders for a child so young. There are so many Lucky’s out there in the world. My heart breaks just thinking about it. This book certainly pulls on the heart strings. However, there are some humorous and entertaing moments to balance out the seriousness of the subject matter.
I raced through this book. I could see rereading it in future because the author offers hope. In that there are bad things that happen but good things happen, too. The author certainly made me feel deeply for Lucky and her outcome. Made me look at life in a slightly different way, I think. Certainly, it reinforces the gift of adoption and that all kids should have somebody to love them. I loved this book. It broke my heart for Lucky but at the same time, it was a painfully true and uplifting story that I won’t forget. I strongly recommend this book. My grade, A. See, I can appreciate a good story. Side Note: Most parents should note that the word “scrotum” is used in this book. This seems to have caused quite a furor over the word being used not once but twice. End Note.