The Higher Power of Lucky

Susan Patron’s book, The Higher Power of Lucky, won the Newberry Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. That’s why I read it. I’m not sure I would have read it otherwise. At first, the title confounded me, and then, when I read the summary and figured it out, I have to admit, I did this dismissing thing, thinking that anyone writing a book with a 12-step theme is sure to get it wrong. I can’t tell you the number of bad stories I’ve read with a recovery or 12-step theme. And I’m in a 12-step program, so you’d think I’d be more willing to forgive writers whose hearts are in the right place, but who can’t quite pull it off. But I’m not. I’m a demanding reader, even of my recovery material, and I don’t have patience for poor writing or themes that don’t resonate.

So, imagine my total surprise when I couldn’t put The Higher Power of Lucky down. Susan Patron has gotten it right. Viewing 12-step recovery through the eyes of a child works beautifully to capture the messiness, the magic, the irony, of how 12-step recovery works. I’ve read gobs of 12-step books (official 12-step literature only, if you please), but they are only hollow echoes of the actual meetings themselves. The meetings are where the real stories are told. And the best meetings are like those Lucky listens to–meetings where stories are told about hitting rock bottom, finding a higher power, and turning your life over. Although the details of Lucky’s journey to recovery from her painful childhood were not the same as my own, her spiritual journey was the same as mine. It is the same as every person whose life is transformed by the power of the 12 steps.

But The Higher Power of Lucky is not a testament to 12 step recovery. It is an entertaining, beautifully written story about a girl named Lucky. It deserved to win the Newberry Medal. Like many of the stories I hear told in 12-step meetings, it is powerful, bitter-sweet and real. But unlike the stories told in 12-step meetings, this story can be heard by anyone. You should go read it now.

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