How lucky we could be if we could see those around us.
“People are the real people they are when they are dying . . . to see them at the end – how they really are — is very lucky.”
~How Lucky by Will Leitch
The spirited and endearing narrator of this delightful novel is Daniel, a 26-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Confined to a wheelchair, and ‘speaking’ with the aid of a voice in his ipad, Daniel works for a travel agency handling customers’ online complaints. He doesn’t mind the insults too much because at least he knows that the customers are being genuine, and not pitying him — as people do when they see him in person.
Even though he left his mother in Illinois, Daniel is relatively happy living in the college town of Athens, GA. When Ai-Chin Lao, a Chinese foreign exchange college student, goes missing, Daniel tries to tell the police that he saw her getting into a car. The effort falls on deaf ears, even when Travis, Daniel’s best friend (and a pot-head), and Marjani, his Pakistani aid try to help.
When Daniel posts what he knows about Ai-Chin’s disappearance in a chat room forum, he receives a curious message from someone who claims to be the driver of the vehicle Ai-Chin got into before she went missing. With only Travis and Marjani to take him seriously, Daniel decides to find out what happened to Ai-Chin and save her. Except, how can he save someone when he relies on people to take care of him?
I am a pretty stoic reader and it surprised me how engaged and moved I was with this story from the very start. The plot was strong, the narrative tight and the characters well-developed. Daniel is a down-to-earth, and sympathetic character, whose independence and optimism are heartwarming, as are his affection for his mother and the people who care for him.
Daniel’s observations about society and how it overlooks people based on their looks was conveyed so effectively. Leicht did a fantastic job of portraying Daniel’s thoughts and feelings, revealing just a richness of emotions and mental clarity that can exist even if one cannot or, perhaps does not communicate in a way that you do. This is also seen through Ai-Chin who doesn’t speak English well, or the wise Marjani who is not in an economic or social position to always speak up for herself.
A touching mystery that is a perfect read for those who enjoyed Alfred Hitchcock’s, Rear Window or Mark Haddon’s, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
If this review intrigues you, check out:
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
The Woman in the Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura
A Luminous Republic by Andrés Barba