God of Luck
God of Luck is a historical novel set against the backdrop of the trade in Chinese laborers, kidnapped and sold to the guano mines off the shores of Peru in the 19th century. Ah Lung struggles to survive on a slave ship and in the mines, while, back home in China, his beloved wife, Bo See, desperately seeks a way to find and free him. The author pulls no punches in depicting the treatment of slave laborers whose lives were completely expendable. A perspective reader might recoil at the prospect of learning about yet another historical instance of man’s inhumanity to man, and one that, though little known, surely ranks with the worst, since guano miners typically survived for only three years. However, the tale of Ah Lung and Bo See has an affirmative message. Told from both the husband and the wife’s points of view, it’s a story of ordinary people discovering extraordinary inner resources of mind and heart in the face of savage adversity. It is impossible not to empathize with these characters and hope for their reunion, as they keep faith with each other though circumstances conspire to part them, perhaps forever.
The clear, simple prose style may remind the reader of Pearl S. Buck. But McCunn’s vision of 19th-century China is original and based on her own wide-ranging research. The familiar landscape has a way of suddenly turning surprising, for example, when the author delves into the traditional role of independent spinsters in Chinese society. In God of Luck, McCunn creates a world, distant from us in both space and time, which seems absolutely authentic, and characters who are heartbreakingly real in their universal humanity.