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HOW LUCKY by Will Leitch


by Will Leitch

Pub Date: May 11th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-06-307-309-8
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

The lone witness to an abduction tries to get skeptical police—and a skeptical society—to see past his wheelchair.

Like most residents of Athens, Georgia, 26-year-old Daniel looks forward to the escape of Game Week, when the University of Georgia plays football at home. Unlike most of them, however, Daniel has spinal muscular atrophy, a progressive genetic disorder that attacks the body from the core out. He can still move his left hand, which he uses to operate his wheelchair and type on an iPad that interfaces with his voice speaker and allows him to work on social media for a commuter airline. One morning Daniel sees a familiar young woman climb into a tan Camaro. After she's reported missing, he posts what he saw on Reddit and begins an email exchange with someone claiming to be the car’s driver. The members of a well-drawn, if spare, cast play supporting roles—Marjani, Daniel’s overworked caregiver; Travis, his lifelong best friend, who's “like a stoner Ichabod Crane”; Jennifer, the grad student who is “suddenly the matriarch of this weird little family”—but the story belongs to Daniel. He’s funny, often self-deprecating, and cleareyed about how many people perceive “someone who doesn’t seem to have control of any element of his body,” but he wants people to “remember there’s a person in here.” Leitch, who is abled, drew inspiration from his young son’s friend who was diagnosed with SMA as a toddler, and the best parts of the book are the reflective, informative passages when Daniel is discussing his ever evolving relationship with his condition. The resolution of the mystery is neither surprising nor terribly realistic, but it’s not really the point here.

A lightweight thriller contours an earnest, sincere portrait of a hero whom many insist on seeing as a victim.