“English majors and book nerds and almost everyone in the program knew that a piece of literature can be the perfect antidote to loneliness, but the truth is that creating that antidote often makes the writer more vulnerable to the thing it’s fighting,” (Zancan 58).
I’ve realized I don’t like books about writing, which is ironic but there you have it. I find that books that fictionalize writers and writing tend to be pretentious and full of themselves. While I’ve never been in an MFA program I have been in some writing groups and I know that the caricatures can be true (I’ve met some) but it’s the thing I hate most about writers and writing, and I don’t want it highlighted every time I read about them. So maybe I’m biased, maybe I was doomed to dislike the book from the beginning but I tried, that has to count for something right?
We Wish You Luck is about a group of MFA writing students who become obsessed with three of their classmates: Hannah, Leslie, and Jimmy. Hannah is quiet, loyal, someone who everyone wants to be friends with, Leslie is loud and confident that she will write erotica and make millions, and Jimmy is a gifted writer with no past. When Simone, a new visiting professor and bestselling author starts at the school the three students lives change forever and end up creating a story the school will never forget.
The book uses a collective “we” to tell the story which is a difficult technique to use (the best I’ve seen it done was with Celeste Ng’s short story “Girls at Play“) and Zancan, for the most part, doesn’t succeed at it. I did have a eureka moment during the first part of the novel where I thought, “Ahh of course, using the ‘we’ narrative device makes the reader feel involved with the Hannah, Leslie, and Jimmy,” and it did, briefly. But with all the characters the “we” mentions who really have nothing to do with the plot and constantly focusing on some other student’s lives away from the school made this book a chore to finish.
While it seems that We Wish You Luck falls under the dark academic genre it sadly doesn’t. Marketed as a thriller there’s nothing actually thrilling about this book, even the big long hinted at “thing” that happened just before the program ended wasn’t that exciting. I just kept waiting for more, more excitement, more drama, anything more of anything really and got nothing.
I understand what Zancan was trying to do. I understand that she was critiquing MFA’s, writing students, and the pretentious stories emerging writers come up with to get noticed and that We Wish You Luck itself is that kind of critique. But understanding what the author’s doing didn’t make this book anymore interesting.
Publication: January 14th 2020
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Pages: 310 pages (Handcover)
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
My Rating: ⛤⛤
“It doesn’t take long for the students on Fielding campus to become obsessed with Hannah, Leslie and Jimmy. The three graduate students are mysterious, inaccessible, and brilliant. Leslie, glamorous and brash, has declared that she wants to write erotica and make millions. Hannah is quietly confident, loyal, elegantly beautiful, and the person they all want to be; and Jimmy is a haunted genius with no past. After Simone—young, bestselling author and erstwhile model—shows up as a visiting professor, and after everything that happened with her, the trio only become more notorious.
Love. Death. Revenge. These age-old tropes come to life as the semesters unfold. The threesome came to study writing, to be writers, and this is the story they’ve woven together: of friendship and passion, of competition and envy, of creativity as life and death. Now, they submit this story, We Wish You Luck, for your reading pleasure.”