Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Luano's Luckiest Day by Chaunce Stanton

When two deadly spiders mysteriously appear in young Luano's room, the boy makes a dangerous decision to believe their promise - the promise of his mother's return. Luano's Luckiest Day is set in an isolated desert town, full of colorful characters. Luano lives with his uncle in their small grocery store. He is a normal nine-year-old boy who wants nothing more than to be reunited with the woman who abandoned him soon after he was born. The fulfillment of Luano's deepest wish takes him on a life-and-death journey that promises readers plenty of action and imagination, sadness and laughter. It is suitable for adults and middle-grade readers.
Goodreads Description

I first encountered this book through last year's Magic Realism Bloghop and it has been sitting on my to-read shelf ever since. So my apologies to Chaunce Stanton for taking so long to review his book.

The writer says that he got the idea for this book from a dream he had, in which he saw a boy searching for his mother on a white tiger. Luano's real world does not feature a white tiger, but the world of his imagination and of his dreams does.  When Luano is asked by his teacher to write about his luckiest day he wrote about how finding his mother would be his luckiest day, and how it would be better to wear a long cape and to ride a giant white tiger to look for her.  But Luano's luckiest day did not begin with white tigers but with spiders. 

Luano believes that the two spiders that arrive in his bedroom are portents of his mother's return and so allows and encourages them to stay. Soon they have festooned the bedroom with webs and are feeding off the boy as he sleeps. Clearly this is not a book for arachnophobes.  But the spiders are what tilt the book into magic realism. The poison in Luano's veins transforms his view of the world so that his dream world and his waking life merge. 

Whilst much of the book is seen from Luano's point of view, the writer at times presents the point of view of the key adults - mostly but not exclusively those of Luano's uncle, his mother and the new man in town, Conejo. At the beginning of the book we are very much with Luano as the writer draws a very clear picture of Luano's world. Luano is restricted physically to a small town in an unnamed desert, but he escapes using his imagination. So much did I enjoy being in Luano's head that the POV shifts away from Luano sometimes jarred as did some of the factual description which almost felt to be unnecessary telling rather than showing. But the story is built on the difference between adult reality and a child's dreams and hopes and therefore maybe the jarring was necessary. The ending (which I will not spoil) was also somewhat disquieting. How could it not be? This is a coming-of-age story and they don't end neatly.

Someone (I can't remember who) said that all children are magic realists in a world of adults. Chaunce Stanton shows that beautifully in this book.

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