I am honoured to have the amazingly talented Fleur Philips here today.
Reading I Am Lucky Bird was a real treat and I cannot wait to spread the news about this phenomenal book. But before we get to my review, here's a little something from Fleur...
The Dark Side of Montana
I was recently asked two of the same questions by a handful of different friends: One, why is everything you write so dark? And, two, why do all of your stories take place in Montana? The answer to the second question is easy. I grew up in Montana, and although I’ve spent the last 11 years in Los Angeles, Montana is still (and always will be) my home. How could I not write about Montana? In my own personal opinion, there is no place on Earth more beautiful. When I think of my childhood there, the images are vivid, and I’m immediately inspired to write about those images—majestic blue, snow-capped mountains; crystal clear rivers, streams and lakes; endless stretches of golden prairies dotted with grazing cattle; a night sky so full of stars, it sparkles like a black sea littered with diamonds.
So, why are the stories I write (which 99.9% of time take place in Montana) so dark? I’m not really sure. I do tend to gravitate to the unknown, toward stories that are not my own—mine is boring. I grew up in a middle-to-upper class family on the shores of Flathead Lake. I have two loving parents and three brothers (all who are alive and thriving). We’re a very close-knit family. I have lived a wonderful life. Lucky’s story in I Am Lucky Bird is tragic. She does not have such a wonderful life. Her journey is filled with heartache and despair. She is tormented by the disappearance of her mother, and the subsequent abuse at the hands of her grandmother, Marian, and Marian’s lover, Tom. I have nothing in common with Lucky…except that we both call Montana home.
I recently wrote a critical paper for graduate school titled, “Yes, It’s Beautiful Here. Now, Go Away: Finding a Common Theme in The Best of Montana’s Short Fiction”. What I discovered when reading this anthology of short stories is that almost all of them were depressing. There was death, trauma, family heartbreak, loss, loneliness. And all but two of them took place in Montana. In one paragraph in I Am Lucky Bird, while Lucky is on her way back to Plains to face the truth about her past and that of her mother and grandmother, she ponders the below question:
“I couldn’t help but wonder how a place so majestic and beautiful could hide within its folds such possibilities of pure ugliness.” (182)
Is it really that Montana is hiding “pure ugliness”? Or is that what I want my readers to think and believe? Maybe I choose to write about this ugliness because I don’t want to share how great a life can really be in Montana. I want to keep that to myself. I want to keep Montana to myself. Maybe the writers whose works fill the pages of The Best of Montana’s Short Fiction think similarly to me. I don’t know. But what I know about myself (that may be reflected in my writing) is that I’d like to share the beauty of Montana with the rest of the world…but I also have a desire to keep the rest of the world away.
Title: I Am Lucky Bird
Author: Fleur Philips
Publisher: Smith Publicity - New Dawn Publishers LTD
Pub Date: May 27, 2012
Genre: Adult Fiction/Drama
SYNOPSIS ( Taken from Goodreads )
When her mother mysteriously vanishes from the small town of Plains, Montana, 12-year-old Lucky Bird’s childhood comes to an abrupt end. Left to defend herself against her suddenly abusive grandmother, Marian, and forced to endure the twisted predatory games played out by Marian’s lover, Lucky soon finds herself trapped in a nightmare.
Even when she manages to escape, the outside world can’t take away the brutal images of her past. Still haunted by her mother’s disappearance and the trauma that followed, Lucky is easily led down a path of self-destruction—a path that only the intervention of a young stranger and his family can guide her away from. But first, Lucky will have to confront her demons, and the dark truths kept hidden.
What I thought was going to be a simple coming of age novel, quickly turned into a dark, macabre story filled with so much anguish and tragedy that it was difficult to tear my eyes away from the pages for even a second. Philips' writing flows off the pages making it such a pleasure to read. The story still haunts me in many ways and the images that filled my head while reading are not easy to forget. I think this novel would make a brilliant movie.
Lucky's life has never been easy. The only people she really knows are AnnMarie, her "mother" for all intents and purposes and her "grandmother", Marian, who is hardly ever around. Then there is Tom Cressfield - the minute he made an appearance in the story, my skin began to crawl because he has a strange creepiness that just screams, "Cannot be trusted!!".
Lucky's life takes a turn for the worse when AnnMarie mysteriously disappears, and Marian becomes abusive, making her life a living hell. Lucky takes refuge in the new friendship she forms with Rika, a new girl who not only understands Lucky, but accepts her without a question. Rika and Lucky's relationship develops into something much deeper and they share a strong bond of love and friendship, and I felt that Lucky held onto it with dear life because it was the closest thing to normal that she ever had.
Yet another tragic event befalls Lucky and it was at this point that I thought she should consider a name change, because she was anything but lucky. Marian's psychotic behaviour pushes her over the edge and Lucky makes what was probably the best decision of her life, she leaves. But she also very quickly realises that leaving does not mean that the past can be forgotten. The mystery of what really happened to AnnMarie haunts her wherever she goes, and the fear that Marian will find her and drag her back to hell forces Lucky to find an escape from her reality. One that nearly costs her, her life.
It is at this point that things start to look up for Lucky. Things finally start falling into place for her and for the first time in her life she finds stability. Only Lucky's past comes knocking sooner than expected, threatening to destroy her happiness, and she is thrown right back into the mess that is Tom Cressfield and Marian. But the horror of revisiting her past brings with it many answers as well as many heartbreaking truths.
Everything happens for a reason and there are never any chance encounters are two message that read strong within the pages of this story. It is filled to the brim with emotion. Lucky doesn't always make the right decisions and many times I shook my head in disbelief but that was what made this story so phenomenal. Lucky was real. She wasn't perfect and things often fell apart for her, but she kept moving forward.
What I loved about this book were the small things which stood out from the drama. Like the birds that always appeared to Lucky at the appropriate times. It may not have played an integral part in the story, but there was something magical about the tie in with what AnnMarie had told Lucky about birds being responsible for bringing the souls of the dead to heaven to become angels. It was like finding gems amongst the ruins of Lucky's life, and I think Fleur Philips needs to be applauded as an author for adding such special moments of beauty to such a tragic story.
This novel deserves nothing less than...
Favourite quotes from I Am Lucky Bird:
"We were like children playing a game for the first time, but with no directions and no wrong moves."
"I saw my past and his, two broken roads running side by side, then joining to form one steady path."
Thank you to Smith Publicity - New Dawn Publishers LTD for giving me the opportunity to read and review I Am Lucky Bird. It really was a pleasure.
Thank you to Fleur Philips for taking the time to guest post on my blog. To find out more about Fleur and her writing visit her website at http://www.fleurphilips.com.