Lucky Girl by Irene Muchemi-Ndiritu

evamukiti's review

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I've had to really introspect on why certain parts of this book made uncomfortable. Whilst I was excited about a Kenyan author, writing a story partly set in Kenya and about Kenyan characters - being born, bred, and currently living in Kenya myself, I just couldn't shake off the feeling that I wasn't the target audience for this book.

Its hard to explain my annoyances at this book, but I'll attempt to. There were parts that felt inauthentic. Some parts were too on the nose. For instance, I think the main character was Maa in order to sort of romanticise Kenya. The long debates where Soila keeps referencing how much Africa has problems. Despite being Kenyan, Soila holds and expresses some very stereotypical views on Kenya and Africa. For all their truths, I can assure you that most Kenyans wouldn't keep referring to 'the poverty in Africa'. I felt like I was being informed about my country by someone who has probably been watching too much CNN.

The inauthenticity was really glaring in some instances. At one of the sisters' weddings, the author keeps referring to the groom's family as ' the Kikuyus'. Let's not even start on the fact that Soila's love interest is called 'Akhenaten' and has dreadlocks down his back.

This was disappointing because I'm really rooting for Kenyan authors to take their place in terms of telling African stories. This book was reminiscent of Americannah but without the humor and markedly African way of story telling. The subject matter was remeniscent of Ngugi wa Thiong'o but almost being too light on the African stand and targeting white people's view of what Africa is.

Will I read another book by the author? Yes. Do I think this is the book to put Kenyan authors on the map like their Nigerian counterparts? Sadly, no.

christinesmith205's review

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emotional inspiring reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


rgander's review

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emotional hopeful relaxing medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No


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smalltownbookmom's review

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A moving and heartfelt #ownvoices debut that follows a young Kenyan woman as she immigrates to NYC for school to escape her conservative mother and make a life of her own choosing.

I really enjoyed Soila's immigration story and her experience adjusting to life in 1990s America, confronting her complicated relationship with racism and navigating what she wants out of life and love versus what she knows her mother would expect.

Good on audio narrated by Musu-Kulla Massaquoi and recommended for fans of books like The god of good looks by Breanne McIvor, Daughter in exile by Bisi Adjapon or Maame by Jessica George. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an early digital copy in exchange for my honest review!

CW: suicidal death of a parent

donasbooks's review

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Wow. Like in the very best way. This book hit all the feels.

First, thank you to the author Irene Muchemi-Ndiritu, publishers Dial Press Trade Paperback and Random House Publishing Group, and as always NetGalley, for an advance digital copy of LUCKY GIRL.

Soila is a young woman who grew up in Kenya in a family which, relatively speaking, had quite a lot to be thankful for. But she also experiences some terrible traumas, like her father's unexpected death, that were made worse by her emotionally unavailable and domineering mother. She wants nothing more than to go to the US to study for college, and does so against her mother’s wishes. Though she doesn't know it at the time, and though her mother makes her pay dearly for it, this decision is the first Soila makes as her own woman.

LUCKY GIRL is ironically titled, because it's really the story of a woman who works hard to persevere through an onslaught (but a realistic one) of personal problems in a maybe dishearteningly ring-shaped narrative. But depending on your values, what Soila finds at the end of her journey is worthwhile, maybe even worthy of all her trials. Maybe it's just what she deserves. Maybe it's exactly where she wants to be.

I love so many things about this book. It introduced me to ideas I have never heard discussed before! The characters are beautifully drawn. And the writing is just my style-- minimalist but not abrubt. When minimalism is done this well, you kind of forget the words are even there and submerge into the story. Such an immersive read!


constantreader471's review

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4 bright stars for an enjoyable book of literary fiction. This is the story of a young woman from Kenya, Africa, who comes to the US to attend university on a 5 year visa. Her mother has built up a business in Kenya to the extent that she can pay $40,000 tuition a year for 4 years. Soila has had conflicts with her mother while still living in Kenya, but living in the US, falling in love and experiencing a foreign culture, bring new areas of conflict with her domineering mother.
Some hot button issues touched on in this heartwarming and frank book:
Racism and driving while black
Religion and its role in family and society, both in the US and Kenya
Hidden family secrets
Sexual abuse
Choices that threaten to tear Soila apart
Since the author was born in Nairobi, Kenya and attended college in the US, some of this book may be based on her experiences.
Two quotes: Soila and her mother having a conversation:
Mother: "You should eat lemons---I tell you all the time," she said, dividing it into small sections. "They ward off diseases."
"She held each section between her lips and sucked out the juice, then crushed it in her mouth. I winced."
Advice from Soila's grandmother: "Kokoi always said that most people spent their whole lives smiling with their mouths. 'Only a few of us are blessed to find the kind of happiness that makes a person smile with their eyes."
Thank You Corina Diez at Random House/Dial Press for sending me this eARC, through NetGalley, due to be published on
May 2, 2023
#LuckyGirl #NetGalley

bookofcinz's review

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So many thoughts and feelings about this book…

In Lucky Girl we meet Soila who was born and raised in Kenya. On her fifth birthday her dad mysteriously dies and no one speaks about it, especially her very strict mother who raised her to be grateful, always give back and not complain too much. Since Solia’s father’s death, her mother took over the business and made it very profitable. They are very well off, Soila is very sheltered because her mother doesn’t want her to end up like the “other girls”. She lives at home with her aunties and does her best to be obedient. As a teenager she misses out on a lot and craves freedom.
With college coming up she decides she wants to go to the US to study. Behind her mother’s back she applies and is approved for college. After much fight her mother says yes. In New York she makes friends, falls in love, finds out who she is in the world, and tries to navigate what it means to be a Kenyan living in the US. She learns a lot, loses a lot and finds peace on her journey.

Here are my thoughts on this book:

It was a very easy read, it is one of those books you spend a day trying to finish because you needed to know what happened. What decision Soila ends up making.

The book have a very strong mother-daughter relationship themed and while I love reading books that centered on it, it made me not like Soila. I find she did not stand up for herself and was so fraidy-fraidy. At one point I found myself screaming “YOU ARE AN ADULT!!!!!”

I felt the author really bemoaned a lot of topics to the point. Yes, I loved reading about what it is like for an African living in America versus an African American living there. When those topics came up it felt forced, it read like a thesis, it didn’t just seamlessly flowed through the book. It was just these big blocks of “let’s discuss this…for 4-6 pages.”

I did not believe the romance in the book or the relationship Soila had with her first boyfriend. It was so cold and unbelievable. I didn’t even care when they broke up.

There were a lot of characters in the book and I wish instead of so many aunties the author focused on 1-2 building out their backstories a bit more.

I also felt the author packed so much in the short book- sexual harassment, racism, coming of age, friendship, identity, love, art, 9/11, where is home… every single theme was ticked, this could be a good or bad thing I guess. For me, it felt like tew much.

You are probably reading this thinking, “well, what exactly did you enjoy?”. Honestly, I enjoyed how the book made me feel. It felt fresh, it was a solid coming of age. And even though Solia enrages me, I still couldn’t help cheering for her. I think this would made a perfect book club pick.

stephscaglia's review

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adventurous emotional hopeful inspiring
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes


A bit of a slow start but once the ball gets rolling I could not peel myself away from this novel

lit_vibrations's review

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If you’re looking for the next good book you found it!!! I loooooved this story so much it was an interesting experience watching Soila’s journey to independence and the various challenges she faced while living in the United States. It was bold and beautifully-written, the beginning has a slow build but the deeper you get into the novel the more connected you become with the MC.

It follows Soila a young Kenyan woman from Nairobi who lived a sheltered life and was raised by a stern and dictative Catholic mother along with her aunts and grandmother. Soila always longed for independence and freedom after years of dealing with her mothers strong beliefs and controlling ways. When she finally made it to New York Soila realized the US was not all it claimed to be and begins to challenge all her beliefs about race, love, and family.

The author did a great job getting the reader emotionally invested in Soila’s life. Most of the book I sympathized with her character and found that she self-sabotaged a lot because of her mother’s behavior. So many times I wished she would finally stand up to her mother and do what was best for her own life. I really wanted her to tell her mother what Father Emmanuel did just so she would shut tf up. When her mother was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s I hated watching Soila break off her engagement and move back to Kenya to care for her. Not because I didn’t like her mother because I didn’t lol but I felt Soila finally found happiness yet she still chose her mother over it.

Overall, the book was amazing it provided a fascinating exploration of finding independence and the cultural differences between countries. A few family secrets are also revealed and there are a few trigger warnings surrounding sexual assault, suicide, and abortions. The flow and atmosphere of the book also meshed well with the character development. Special thanks to the author & @thedialpress for my gifted copy!!!

mdoughlin's review

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This was a good book but it didn't tell a unique for me as a whole.