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It's been two years since Lucky Trimble's mother died from accidental electrocution after a bad desert storm. Since then, Lucky has made the best of things, living in a series of interconnected trailers with her French guardian, Brigitte. Even though Lucky, who aspires to be a scientist like Charles Darwin (her dog is named HMS Beagle), tries hard to order her life like the insect specimens she collects, she's always a little worried. What if Brigitte --- her absent father's first wife, who planned to come to California just long enough to put Lucky in foster care --- ends up returning to her beloved France, leaving Lucky behind?
Maybe the answer to Lucky's problems lies with the mysterious ”Higher Power” she often overhears members of various 12-step programs talking about. But what is Lucky's Higher Power? And where can she go to find it after she reaches rock bottom, when she discovers Brigitte's passport on top of her suitcase, ready for a return to France?
As Lucky works to find her Higher Power and finally recover from her mother's death, she interacts with many of her neighbors in tiny Hard Pan, California, which has 43 residents and only three paying jobs. Her eccentric friends include recovering alcoholic Short Sammy, knot expert (and future president) Lincoln Clinton Carter Kennedy, and little Miles, who is desperate for attention and obsessed with the book Are You My Mother?
Hard Pan may be a bit isolated and more than a little impoverished (all its inhabitants rely on monthly government surplus rations). What does this little town have to offer Brigitte, who is used to first-class restaurants, museums and really good cheese? Maybe if Lucky runs away, Brigitte will finally find a reason to stay in Hard Pan.
--- Reviewed by Norah Piehl
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