Review: The Lucky Ones

By Julianne Pachico
Random House Spiegel & Grau, 2017

Author Julianne Pachico grew up in Colombia, and her narrative sings with details particular to the region. The Lucky Ones is structured as a (non-linear) series of short stories, linked by overlapping characters, situations, and imagery. Reading this collection feels like playing a pinball game, when the ball ricochets wildly here and there, with the overall effect an uncertainty of outcome. Gabriel Garcia Marquez would applaud this young writer's splashes of magical realism. Chapters span an era when FARC and other paramilitary groups struggled for power with drug lords and elected governments. Exquisite details pull the reader into the heart of Colombia, where rule of law has dissolved. In such a world, people are held hostage to circumstance. Wealth doesn't insulate one from violence. A school is not necessarily a sanctuary. A birthday party can turn really strange, super fast. A teacher is not immune from kidnapping. In my opinion, the best fiction bears witness to a world in turmoil, engages the reader with characters who are snared in high-stakes moral struggles beneath the surface of world headlines. Applause to Ms. Pachico for a brilliant debut, a journey into complicated places.

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Karen Lewis