There are layers upon layers in So Lucky. It’s a deftly-drawn story, bigger than just a woman fighting a monstrous disease.
It’s also a story about divorce, friendship, disability, community, love.
It’s a story about change and survival, from disease, yes, but also from assault.
It’s a novel that deftly penetrates society’s ableism, the tacit, constant ways we communicate to those with disabilities: ‘You are not whole. You are less.’
It’s even a suspenseful detective story. This subplot doubles as a stunning metaphor for the difficult process of securing a diagnosis: Are you sure what you’re feeling is real? Maybe this is all in your head…
Shields really gets the book: she’s not only an award-winning novelist, she has MS. It makes a sharp difference (compare this review to this one). Once again I’d like to suggest to review editor that, when assigning books for review, choose appropriate critics. The farther an author is from the privileged norm, the more deeply the assigning editor needs to consider the experience, identity, and empathy of the reviewer.
One day this won’t be true, but today, here and now, a nondisabled critic most probably would not have the understanding Shields does of what I’m doing in So Lucky. They would not be able to write this:
So Lucky is a boundless, fearless animal of a novel, made more boundless and fearless by talking so frankly about the ways illness limits us and terrifies us. It’s structurally ingenious and beautifully written, thrumming with breathtaking sentences that evoke in us a sense of deep empathy.
I’ll have more to say about this in the New Year. Meanwhile, go read the review essay. It’s a lovely piece of work.