Title: Lucky King
Author: Bruce Griffin Henderson
Publication date: May 4, 2021
One Sentence Summary: In NYC, the lives of several people intersect after conservative radio talk show host Jack DuVal receives a fortune in a fortune cookie that sets off a chain reaction of events.
Lucky King follows an ensemble cast in 2002 NYC. The country is teetering on the edge of war and conservative radio talk show host Jack DuVal fans the flames. But a fortune in a fortune cookie sets a string of events in motion, which will impact not just Jack but people around him and beyond. As I don’t read much fiction, I had a bit of a hard time figuring out what this book was about and where the story was going, but I found myself sucked into the lives of these characters who felt very much like real people. I found the story to be beautifully layered with so many connections between the characters whether or not they knew it. I do wish the fortunes had been woven in more, but, overall, Lucky King was a really surprising read to me and, by the end, I really enjoyed it.
Lucky King presents an ensemble cast with the story broadly revolving around fortunes in fortune cookies that are eerily accurate. Most of the story revolves around radio talk show host Jack DuVal and the power of his voice to divide listeners. He’s in the middle of negotiating a multi-million dollar deal, but, when his fortune seems to come true, it’s a slow downward spiral that impacts the people around him and beyond.
I must admit about two-thirds of Lucky King felt a little tiresome to me as I couldn’t really figure out what, precisely, this book was supposed to be about. The chapters focus on different characters, some more minor than others, and I couldn’t always fathom why they were included. Still, I found myself enjoying the story and, by the end, felt the beauty of it was in not knowing what this was about, not knowing about the other characters in the book as they aren’t mentioned in the description. I really did enjoy slowly getting to know most of them, peeling back their layers, and finding out how their lives all intersected. Like a movie with an ensemble cast, several of the characters actually know each other and their lives intersect, and then there are some side stories of people with related, but separate stories.
I didn’t personally feel particularly drawn to any one character. I found them all a bit irritating in their own ways, but also found things about them that I liked. They felt like regular people who could be out walking around in the world. They’re imperfect and perfectly showcase the struggles of changing oneself, of which some are more interesting and invested in doing than others. For some it’s simply too late and, while those chapters had me scratching my head a little, I felt those were the most poignant chapters for me, the ones that let me glimpse another life and then left me wondering.
Lucky King is set in NYC approximately one year after 9/11, when the US is on the verge of war. I liked how it came out through Jack’s radio show as he’s a conservative and enjoys needling his guests. What he says is divisive and he takes pride in it. But I also felt it a little lacking. The story focuses much more on the personal lives of the ensemble cast instead of the nation at large and how the verge of war and recovery from 9/11 are affecting them. Personally, I found that aspect of the book the most fascinating as I was a young high school student at the time. It was interesting to get information about that time, but I wish it had been integrated a little more into the characters’ lives.
Still, there’s something fascinatingly beautiful about Lucky King. Despite finding most of the book a little exhausting and kind of lacking in direction (then again, I don’t read much fiction, so take this with a grain of salt), I really, really appreciated the end. It brought the story full circle and really showed me how beautiful this book was in terms of both how it was presented and what it was about. I couldn’t help but feel blown away by it and suddenly found myself reflecting on the rest of the book in a new light. As much as I’d like to break down all the characters and their stories here, I absolutely loved not knowing almost all of them, which made this a beautifully layered read that had me wanting to read the next chapter and then the next.
Lucky King touches on so many things, on so many very real feelings and thoughts that we all might have experienced at one time or another. While they seem specific to the character, it also speaks to a kind of universality of experiences. But what hurt the most was reading the cruelties and unfairness of life. So many of them seemed doomed from the start, but they also give the reader so much hope that things will look up, that they’ll be able to make a positive change. But human nature can’t help but cling to the familiar, can’t help but be chopped down at the whims of fate. I couldn’t stop all the internal yells that rattled around in my head, couldn’t help but ache for something good for some of these characters. Still, I loved how the author didn’t shy away from anything, how it all felt beautifully, brutally honest and unforgiving, and sometimes I did feel the characters deserved exactly what they got.
I think the only thing that truly bothered me was an absolute dearth of fortunes for much of the book. There are a few sprinkled in, but most seem to be handed out towards the end. I had hoped the Lucky King, the one writing the fortunes, would make a real appearance throughout the book, but it all seemed very mystical and strange, almost magical, so I felt like I was missing a connection between the story and the fortunes. I did really love how the one at the beginning sent just about every other character into their own spiral, whether they receive a fortune or not, but I really wanted to see more of that string uniting all the characters. I also really wanted to find out more about the Lucky King.
Overall, Lucky King was a surprising read to me. It’s far from my usual read, but I really enjoyed it even if I didn’t really understand every aspect of it. I found this book to be both beautiful and brutal and maybe a bit on the disturbing side, but I loved just how real every character felt, how I could absolutely believe they were actually walking around. The realness of everything was truly wonderful to read and, even if I couldn’t figure out what the story was about or where it was going, I was sucked into the lives of the characters.
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Thank you to the author, Bruce Griffin Henderson, and publicist Penny Sansevieri for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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