Dumb Luck
Lesley Choyce
(Red Deer)
Brandon is your typical feckless student, a tree-climbing, girl-friendless eighteen-year-old with a used-car salesman for a father and a weepy if kindly Mum. Then he draws a lucky number in the lottery and comes up with three million beans: sudden fame, emails from all over the world, hard-luck stories ("my favorite dog has cancer and we can't afford to operate") and offers of love that turn his head: ("I'm twenty-three years old and here is a shot of me in my bikini.")

Our author, Lesley Choyce, has chosen to plow a very tired field: one done --- and done well --- by Richardson and Fielding and de Maupassant and Dickens and O. Henry and done badly by countless Hollywood flicks (brief glory followed by tears, regret, betrayal).

You can guess how the story is played out. Brando and noisy parties in the spanking new condo, complete with hottub, a new BMW, credit cards without limit out the gazoo, and hungry young ladies crawling all over him.

Dumb Luck has an old wheezy message for us. Mr. Carver, the counselor at Brandon's high school, was a dot.com millionaire who made it big ... and then lost it all. He may be poor but behind that rough exterior he's all heart.

He also likes to spit in the clam chowder: he offers Brandon a list of people who won millions and then went mad, became junkies, ended up in bankruptcy, committed suicide ... or worse, went back to their $6.50/hour jobs at Pizza Hut.

The schtick here is that a kid can't just sit back with his $3,000,000 and get stoned and paddle about in his hot tub with Miss Lovely and be happy. No. Lovely will teach him about charging his high-class new clothes on his credit card and how to buy wines with names he can't pronounce and how to wallow in long deep kisses he kept missing when he was poor and simple.

For this reader, Lovely is such a live-wire that I found myself thinking that if I ever came up with 3,000,000 simollions I would call her up post haste to teach me how to drown in wine-drenched kisses while sitting in the front seat of my new convertible after a choice meal.

For Brandon, it's not what he wants, the idiot. He longs for his old tree-climbing buddy Kayla with the thick glasses and the dumpy clothes, and her stolid life-plan: she wants to go to the South Pole to study penguins. And of course Kayla is the only one who doesn't play him for a fool, doesn't demand a ticket to Penguin Village or even for a new pair of jeans.

"I just don't know who I am anymore," says sad-sack Brandon:

    I don't know what I want, and I don't know who my real friends are, and I don't know where I am going.

And then, oh woe,

    I started to cry. Yeah, I cried. Kayla held me again...

A cynic might say that author Choyce had been hired on by the Christian Enterprise Institute to show us that we have got to stop knocking the very rich. Their lives, we learn here, can be an absolute hole-in-the-wall mess. Getting drunk, taking off in the BMW, and then nabbed by the cops ... getting cuffed and forced to take the Breathalyzer test and having to piss in front of a policeman and then be thrown in the cooler, bums next door, no hangover medicine, no sheets on the bed, even. It's enough to make you tear up your brand new lottery ticket.

--- Thomas Gibson
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