THE LOTTERYS PLUS ONE BY EMMA DONOGHUE
Review by Sarah Cassidy, a book for young adults by the author of ROOM.
If you asked me why youth should read The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue, I’d steal a line from our Prime Minister: because it’s 2017. The Lottery family has two fathers, two mothers, and seven children—all from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
The youngest, Oak, hasn’t uttered his first word even at age two—his development having been blunted by negligent biological parents. Brian was born Briar, but has decided that she is not a girl. She shaves her head and most enjoys wearing a fire engine costume everywhere she goes. Aspen is spunky, outspoken, and devoted to her pet rat. Sumac, aged 9 but often mistaken for a more-mature 11, is the main character. She is an average girl who loves learning and her family. Wood is the nature-lover of the family, Sic is the reader-cum-hipster, and eldest Catalpa is a brooding musical-type. The parents are CardaMom, MaxiMum, PapaDum, and PopCorn—peacekeepers, loving parents, and fun in their own unique ways.
I was surprised at how easy it was to keep the characters apart. They are well-developed with distinct personalities. If you’re having trouble, the illustration of the family in the first few pages certainly helps as a reference!
The Lotterys could not be more close-knit. They spend their days together rather than at school, learning from each other, the natural world, and educational excursions. Just one member of the extended Lottery clan is estranged: a cantankerous grandfather whose age prevents him from now taking care of himself. When “Grumps” inadvertently sets a fire in his home, he moves in to the Lottery homestead (affectionately called Camelottery, after the Arthurian legend).
Sumac has the hardest time adjusting to Grumps’ arrival. She’s displaced from her room, excursions are disrupted, and—worst of all—Grumps seems intolerant of the Lottery’s diversity.
Sumac means well when she tries to find Grumps permanent lodging outside of Camelottery. Between “introducing” Grumps to Aspen’s pet rat and an informed presentation on seniors’ homes, all of Sumac’s plans to rid Camelottery of Grumps backfire. So begins her transition from conniving to accepting Grumps’ disagreeable quirks.
The Lotterys Plus One is simple in plot but full with teachable moments, interesting did-you-knows, cultural references, and word play. Ultimately it is a story of familial love, understanding, and acceptance. Parents might be interested to know that Emma Donoghue, of Room fame, is the author. Certainly she writes with grace but this being tailored to younger readers, the tone is whimsical and humourous. A sequel to the Lotterys is in the works, and in my opinion this is a series that young readers will love to follow.