The Thing About Luck
Thing About Luck
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Cynthia Kadohata, illus. by Julia Kuo
ISBN 9781416918820
Atheneum/S&S, 2013.
5 stars
Keywords: cynthia-kadohata family farming friendship grandparents japanese-american midwest thing-about-luck

The Thing About Luck
by Cynthia Kadohata, illus. by Julia Kuo

Newbery medalist Cynthia Kadohata's (Kira-Kira) moving novel of an intergenerational family unfolds through the eyes of 12-year-old Summer Miyamoto.

Her parents have gone to Japan to care for three dying elderly relatives. But it's harvest time, when the family makes the majority of their income working the wheat fields of the Midwest. So Summer, her 10-year-old brother, Jaz, and her Obaachan (grandmother) and Jiichan (grandfather) head off to work as "wheaties." Her brother (who "wouldn't be Jaz if he weren't obsessed with something") has been diagnosed with ADHD, PDD-NOS and OCD, depending on which doctor you ask. But his biggest fear is that he'll never have a friend. Summer's kindness toward him wins out over her impatience with him. A recent bout of malaria has given Summer a maturity beyond her years.

Kadohata's novel is a love letter to the flatlands of the Midwest. Summer connects with its beauty and shares her fascination with how the wheat gets from field to table, and her interest is infectious. Nature and mealtimes govern the rhythms of their daily lives. Summer's grandparents play a large role in the shaping of Summer's conscience and outlook. Her accumulation of wisdom through the harvest season results in an ending that sneaks up on readers in its impact and poignancy. Kadohota's novel opens a window into a multigenerational family that honors its own culture while also planting a firm foundation in America.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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