So Luckyis a compact, brutal story of losing power and creating community, fast-paced as a punch in the face. Mara Tagarelli, director of the Georgia AIDS Partnership, is used to fighting her way to victory on others’ behalf—but shortly after separating from her wife of 14 years, she loses her job and learns she has multiple sclerosis...finding few resources available to people with M.S., Mara sets out to create them...but as she navigates the disease’s effect on her life, job and relationships, she grows aware of a shadowy, grinning thing stalking her peripheral vision—and becomes certain that a string of murders and home invasions is targeting the community she’s building...beautifully written, with a flexible, efficient precision that embodies the protagonist’s voice and character.
Far too little fiction reflects the experiences and realities of those with disabilities, and when it does, it often reads as an exercise in tokenism. In So Lucky, a disconcerting but very necessary book, Griffith presents a protagonist with substance, complexity, and purpose. Mara is so much more than her diagnosis and limitations, but her story underlines the insidiousness of ableism and the lamentable mistreatment and neglect of the chronically ill and disabled among us.
In the first ten pages of Nicola Griffith’s latest novel, thirty-something narrator Mara Tagarelli’s wife of fourteen years announces the end of their marriage, Mara starts a new relationship with an old friend, and she is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis ... An unusual plot twist involving serial killers and a string of hate crimes enables Griffith to explore again the grey area between the real and imagined. Afraid that she will be the next victim, Mara buys a gun and says to herself, I think I’m being hunted. Or haunted ... The world of Nicola Griffith’s So Lucky is governed by ableist misconception and ignorance, but it is also marked by hope and human connection ... It’s a narrative that at once informs, confronts, puzzles and engages. I have little doubt that readers who take it up will be rewarded.
Events unfold quickly in crisp, clear prose like a hot flame on dry kindling ... The action moves at a frenetic clip, and amid all the activity, a grinning monster lurks ... Griffith’s brutal, unsparing style suits the brevity of the book, and makes the cascading small encounters with ableism, as well as the tense climax, truly frightening. The narrative feels compacted, but not crushed. Griffith deftly reveals only what is significant, creating an effect that’s like how Mara describes a correctly executed karate strike ... If you have ever had that moment of realization that someone is stronger than you, has power over you and could do you harm either because they mean to or because they just aren’t paying attention, So Lucky is for you. It is full of power and healing, like a forest fire that will burn every single thing to the ground to make way for fresh green growth.
Within the first pages of Nicola Griffith’s seventh novel, So Lucky, it becomes clear that the events therein are anything but lucky. Mara Tagarelli is left by her wife of fourteen years, suffers a serious fall which leads to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, and is fired from her job ... MS leads not only to the loss of physical integrity – whether in the form of numbness, weakness, pain, loss of balance, or blindness – but also, potentially, the loss of mental integrity. There is no cure, and little treatment. And this is only the beginning of Mara’s troubles ... Griffith is not a prose stylist, but the writing is always clear and direct ... However, ultimately, the reader will be left to question how the narrative might have been focused and finessed out, and how these subjects – violence, paranoia, loss, anger, and eventual transformation – thrilling with thematic potential, could have been better served.
Romantic relationships play a significant role in the plot, but this is certainly not a romance novel. This is, more than anything, a story about disability and how it shapes—and reshapes—people’s lives. There are plenty of compelling themes here, and this might have been an excellent novel if it had been half again as long. But everything feels rushed. Mara’s reaction to her disease is raw and honest, but readers only see her as caustic and difficult. Unpleasant protagonists can be compelling, of course, but, here, it’s easier to understand why Rose and Aiyana would ditch Mara than to understand why they stick with her. And the element of mystery is introduced late and resolved before it generates any real tension.
This affecting autobiographical novel from Griffith recounts a proud and independent woman’s struggle to lead a meaningful life despite a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Mara Tagarelli...is still dealing with her wife’s ending their 14-year marriage when she gets the shocking news that she has relapsing-remitting MS, which is exacerbated by stress. A bad experience at a support group for people with MS leads Mara to create a new organization, the Cripples Action Team, 'a flexible task force with an active, evolving mission to help disabled people help ourselves.' While a subplot involving crimes against the disabled could have been dispensed with, the end product is a plausible warts-and-all portrayal of a person unwilling to let herself be defined by her illness. Anyone who’s ever struggled with medical adversity will be inspired.