Lucky Girls: Stories

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9780060088804: Lucky Girls: Stories

Lucky Girls is the debut collection by an author who first came to national attention with the 2001 publication of the title story in The New Yorker fiction issue.

Here are five stories, set in Southeast Asia and on the Indian subcontinent -- each on bearing the weight and substance of a short novella -- narrated by young women who find themselves, often as expatriates, face to face with the compelling circumstances of adult love. Living in unfamiliar places, according to new and often frightening rules, these characters become vulnerable in unexpected ways -- and learn, as a result, to articulate the romantic attraction to landscapes and cultures that are strange to them.

In "Lucky Girls," an American woman who has been involved in a five-year affair with a married Indian man feels bound, following his untimely death, to her memories of him, and to her adopted country. The protagonist of "Outside the Eastern Gate" returns to her childhood home in Delhi to discover a house still inhabited by the desperate and impulsive spirit of her mother who, years before, abandoned her family for a wild, dangerous journey across the Kyber Pass to Afghanistan. And, in "Letter from the Last Bastion," a teenage girl begins a correspondence with a middle-aged male novelist, who, having built his reputation writing about his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam, confides in her the secret truth of those experiences, and the lie that has defined his life as a man.

Lucky Girls marks the arrival of a writer of exceptional talents, one whose generosity of spirit, clarity of intellect and emotion, and skill in storytelling set her among today's most gifted and exciting young voices.

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Review:

Nell Freudenberger knows from lucky girls. She has had a lot of luck herself in her short writing career: Her debut story was featured in The New Yorker, with a glossy full-color author photo alongside; a quick book contract ensued, on the strength of that one published story; and now comes a debut collection full of stories that are actually good. The Lucky Girls collected here are far-flung Americans, young women trying to figure out where they belong in the world. In "The Tutor," teenage Julia and her businessman father are living in Bombay; her mother has returned to the United States. Julia crams for the SATs with her tutor Zubin, smokes cigarettes, and goes to nightclubs; her father hovers at home. Freudenberger gets just right the moments when Julia and her father find themselves alone together, trying to be a family: "It was just the two of them at the table then; even with the leaves taken out and stored against the wall in the coat closet, they had to half-stand in order to pass the soup." Too, she knows the upper-class world of which she writes. In "The Orphan," Mandy's parents and brother come to visit her in Thailand, where she is working with "AIDS babies." Mandy's brother Josh appears, and Freudenberger skewers his type, neatly, in a sentence: "Josh looks like someone coming out of trench warfare in the Balkans, rather than college in Maine." But Freudenberger isn't telling easy rich-kid stories. She's forever pushing her narration. In "The Tutor," we hear from Zubin, an overeducated Indian, as well as from Julia. "The Orphan," in turn, is told by Mandy's mom, a woman bewildered by yet proud of her daughter's choice to remain in Thailand. Freudenberger's stories are cosmopolitan, expansive, and richly detailed, a beguiling combination of qualities. --Claire Dederer

About the Author:

Nell Freudenberger has taught English in Bangkok and New Delhi, and currently lives in New York City. Lucky Girls is her first book.

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