This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, “Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults.” It appears in volume 21.1.
A Big Dose of Lucky
In 2012, Orca Publishers released Sevens, a set of seven novels by seven different authors, featuring seven male cousins each set on a quest to accomplish in order to claim their portion of their grandfather’s inheritance. Now, in 2015, Orca has released Secrets, a parallel series with female protagonists.
The foundation of this series is the destruction of an orphanage by (we assume) accidental fire. Set in 1964, at a time when national regulations governing child welfare were in flux, the series follows the lives of the seven oldest girls in the orphanage. At eighteen, the girls would have been sent out on their own; the fire merely precipitates their setting out into the world. Each of the seventeen-year-old self-proclaimed “sisters” is given an envelope by their beloved headmistress, Mrs. Hazelton; the envelopes contain information about their pasts, providing paths for them to take towards their futures.
A Big Dose of Lucky is the story of African-Canadian Malou, who has been protected from the blatant racism of the time by her almost-seclusion in the nurturing environment of the Benevolent Home for Necessitous Girls in Hope, Ontario. The information in Malou’s envelope leads her eventually to Parry Sound, where she begins to unravel the secrets of her parentage. Malou’s life is woven through with new discoveries at both the personal and societal levels; adept at historical research, Marthe Jocelyn brings into her story issues of racism, homosexuality, and the advancement of modern medicine in the 1960s, or—more significantly—in 1947 when Malou was conceived.
The first modern instances of artificial insemination were recorded in a study in 1943, followed by studies in 1948 and 1953; Jocelyn makes such important medical experiments the linchpin of her mystery. Malou’s discoveries unearth the truth about a number of young people her age in Parry Sound. Parry Sound in the 1960s had only about 6000 residents; not surprising, then, with Malou actively looking, that the obviously non-Caucasian youth would find each other. And help each other. And learn the secret of how they are connected despite their families’ different ethnicities. Malou’s quest began with only a hospital bracelet labelled “Baby Fox.” It ends with not only a mother, but also an extended family of half-siblings, and Malou rediscovers the security she lost when the Benevolent Home for Necessitous Girls burned down.