MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Amy Bloom burst onto the literary scene with her acclaimed short story collection "Come To Me." That was more than 20 years ago. She's written several other books since then and her latest is becoming a summer hit. The new novel is called "Lucky Us." It takes readers across America during the 1940s. Our reviewer Alan Cheuse finds the two sisters, at the center of the book, endearing and comical. They have the same father but different mothers and meet for the first time at the start of the book.
ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Iris is the older teenager. She's focused on the idea of becoming an actress. Eva, the narrator of most of the book, is the younger one. She reads biographies of Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale and remarks that even in the books written for little girls, you could tell these women were so tough. They'd take a bullet out of you with a fork and not blink. Eva is a toughie in training. Iris has a conman's or an actor's ability to counterfeit personalities. It doesn't take all that long for her to find herself a couple of rungs up on the Hollywood success ladder, only to fall in love with another actress who, at one point, escorts her to a lesbian orgy with starlet upon starlet lighting up the sky and the couches. Soon after, a Hollywood photographer catches these women skinny-dipping together. Iris' lover betrays her to the bluenose gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. And in amoral trade-off, gets herself pardoned for her frisky business and Iris blackballed from the movies for sexual misconduct. So then it's goodbye Hollywood as the sisters travel East, with Iris's Hollywood hairdresser in tow, to Brooklyn and Long Island. They regroup around their father who learns how to become a butler. Iris steals away a man's wife. The sisters steal away a young boy from a local Jewish orphanage and raise him as their own. The details remain as goofy as they sound - goofy but memorable and even convincing and sometimes tinged with darkness, when the story shifts, as it does now and then, to the war in Europe. Eva tells the story of the decade of her education and her flowering into womanhood with an enduring fusion of toughness and tenderness all its own. Eva - she'd take a bullet out of you with a fork and not blink - "Lucky Us."
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And the book is called "Lucky Us." It was written by Amy Bloom and reviewed by Alan Cheuse. He teaches writing at George Mason University.