Lucky Trimble, resident 42 of Hard Pan, California, population 43, has one of the three paying jobs in town. Three times a week she sweeps up the patio in front of the Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center so that the Smokers Anonymous members won’t have to see the cigarette butts of the alcoholics and overeaters, the Overeaters Anonymous members won’t have to see the others’ candy wrappers, and the Alcoholics Anonymous members won’t have to see everyone else’s beer cans. When she finishes sweeping, Lucky likes to listen to the meetings, where members take turns telling again and again how they hit rock bottom, found their higher powers, and got their lives in order. The stories are good, even if she has heard them before, but what Lucky really wants to know is how to find her own higher power so she can get some control over her life. Having lost her mother to a freak electrocution, and terrified that her Guardian — her absent father’s previous wife Brigitte, from France — will give up on Hard Pan and Lucky and go home, this is no idle wish. Frustrated with the lack of detail regarding how to find her higher power, Lucky decides that perhaps she’s had the order wrong all along. Maybe she needs to take control of the situation first, and let the higher power follow.
Patron fits a lot into a small package — Lucky is just over 130 pages — without the story ever feeling forced. With well-chosen details and a handful of vignettes, she creates a believable community making do in near desperate circumstances. I particularly loved the characterisation of Lincoln, a “knot artist,” and Lucky’s efforts to frame her experiences in scientific terms that, while far from accurate, feel somehow logical and familiar just the same.
Check out a New York Times article about why The Higher Power of Lucky was challenged.