Summer of My Amazing Luck

Publisher: Vintage Canada
A Novel by the Governor General’s Literary Award—winning author of A Complicated Kindness

Lucy Van Alstyne always thought she’d grow up to become a forest ranger. Instead, at the age of eighteen, she’s found herself with quite a different job title: Single Mother on the Dole. As for the father of her nine-month-old son, Dillinger, well…it could be any of number of guys.

At the Have-a-Life housing project–aptly nicknamed Half-a-Life by those who call it home–Lucy meets Lish, a zany and exuberant woman whose idea of fashion is a black beret with a big silver spider brooch stuck on it. Lish is the mother of four daughters, two by a man on welfare himself and twins from a one-week stand with a fire-eating busker who stole her heart–and her wallet.

Living on the dole isn’t a walk in the park for Lucy and Lish. Dinner almost always consists of noodles. Transportation means pushing a crappy stroller through the rain. Then there are the condescending welfare agents with their dreaded surprise inspections. And just across the street is Serenity Place, another housing project with which Half-a-Life is engaged in a full-on feud. When the women aren’t busy snitching on each other, they’re spreading rumours–or plotting elaborate acts of revenge.

In the middle of a mosquito-infested rainy season, Lish and Lucy decide to escape the craziness of Half-A-Life by taking to the road. In a van held together with coat-hangers and electrical tape and crammed to the hilt with kids and toys, they set off to Colorado in search Lish’s lost love and the father of her twins. Whether they’ll find him is questionable, but the down-and-out adventure helps Lucy realize that this just may be the summer of her amazing luck.

Miriam Toews’s debut novel, Summer of My Amazing Luck opens our eyes to a social class rarely captured in fiction. At once hilarious and heartbreaking, it is inhabited by an unforgettable and poignant group of characters. Shortlisted for both the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award and for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, it also earned Miriam the John Hirsch Award for the Most Promising Manitoba Writer.



Lish had been a lifer even before the trouble started with Serenity Place. She had four daughters, two of them with the same guy and the other two, twins, with a carefree street performer who had fallen in love with Lish’s hands. Perfect for balls, he’d said, juggling them that is. Now...
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1. What role does luck play in the novel? What constitutes Lucy’s amazing luck in your view?

2. How do the characters in Summer of My Amazing Luck find a way to bring joy into their lives despite their circumstances?

3. What does the novel reveal about our society’s...

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Praise for Summer of My Amazing Luck:

“A comic take on what initially appears a most improbable topic for humour … it works.”
The Globe and Mail

“In a style rather like Barbara Kingsolver, Toews has her characters find a way to make joy in their lives.”
–Winnipeg Free Press

Praise for the writing of Miriam Toews:

“Wise, edgy, unforgettable.”
The Globe and Mail

“Brilliant … there is beauty and compassion in [Toews’s] portrayal of Nomi’s struggle.”
The New York Times Book Review


“Exquisitely written and faceted…. Heartbreaking and humorous…. From beginning to end the book is unusually calibrated and incredibly compelling.”
The Guardian (UK)

“Told with the slouchy, cool grace of a misfit teen, this sparkly novel is destined to become a coming-of-age classic.”
Elle (UK)

“At first Toews’s characters seem merely quirky; then they get under your skin, and finally, it seems, into your very blood, where they quicken the heart.”
The Globe and Mail

“Delightfully humourous, subversive and naughtily clever.”
Prairie Fire