Friday, July 08, 2016

The Thing About Luck, by Cynthia Kadohata

Summer’s family is having a run of bad luck.  Her parents have had to go to Japan to care for ailing relatives, leaving Summer and her little brother with their grandparents.  The family’s regular seasonal job of harvesting wheat for farmers has to be borne by the grandparents who are in poor health.  For Summer, this means helping her grandmother, whose back is weak and who seems to always find fault with her granddaughter.  Through various hardships, the experience helps Summer come to understand how even a young person can do a lot if she sets her mind to it.

An interesting setting (seasonal subcontractors operating combines for wheat farmers in middle America), combined with a multi-generational immigrant family, provides color and cultural diversity.  So, the whole thing starts off well, but it never engaged me.  This is a common issue I've had with Kadohata's books.  She writes well, of course, but the stories don’t go anywhere.  There are lots of ideas developed (Summer’s fear of contracting malaria, her learning to operate heavy machinery, helping her brother make friends, falling in love, etc.) that simply get dropped with a one-page wrap-up at the very end.  I suppose the resolutions are all intended to be implied, but the bare bones of storytelling simply aren’t there.

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