The heart of the novel The Higher Power of Lucky is its main character, Lucky Trimble, who manages to portray how ten-year-olds speak, reason, and feel in a timeless fashion. The way Lucky thinks about her life and, especially, the way she makes sense of her strange family and living situation are both heartbreaking and heartwarming. She finds meaning in pain, order in chaos, and humor in the midst of a dust storm.

At least as impressive, though, is how Lucky fits into the town of Hard Pan, California. With a population of only 43, it is a place where every detail matters, and Lucky, who idolizes Charles Darwin, studies it like the natural scientist she wants to be. The difference is that, though Lucky observes her environment with an acuity similar to Darwin’s, she is interwoven with her environment. Each of her perceptive observations is also an adaptation that carries emotional and spiritual implications.

On a simpler level, The Higher Power of Lucky is downright fun. Lucky’s eye for detail, her intense ambitions, her storytelling abilities, and her interactions with friends such as Lincoln the knot-obsessed are pure pleasure.

Extended Summary

The Higher Power of Lucky begins with Lucky Trimble crouching next to a hole in the wall of Hard Pan’s Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center, listening to a twelve-step meeting and stories about how people hit bottom and found their “Higher Powers.” Lucky is interested in finding her Higher Power.

Lucky goes home to the trailer where she lives with Brigitte, her guardian since her mother was accidentally killed. Brigitte had come from France at Lucky’s father’s request.

Lucky’s friend Lincoln calls to borrow a black permanent marker, and he asks Lucky to meet him at a traffic sign their friend Miles had asked about. Lucky does. The sign says “Slow Children at Play” until Lincoln adds a colon so that it now reads “Slow: Children at Play,” making the sign’s intended meaning more clear, an act Lucky labels “presidential.”

A few days later, Lucky is at home killing bugs for her insect collection when her five-year-old friend Miles comes over for some cookies and a story. Miles wants Lucky to read him his favorite book, Are You My Mother?, but Lucky counters with a story about the “Olden Days of Hard Pan” starring Chesterfield the Burro. Miles wants more stories, but Lucky says no.

Just then, Brigitte gets home, so Miles gets her to tell the story of how she came to Hard Pan. As Brigitte unpacks her government surplus supplies, she tells her story. She and Lucky’s father had been married a long time ago. When Lucky’s mother was killed, Lucky’s father called Brigitte in France and asked her to come help. She flew to Los Angeles airport and then drove through the city until she reached the desert and, eventually, Hard Pan. Brigitte had planned to stay only a short time, just until a foster family could be found for Lucky, but it took a long time, and to help with the paperwork she became Lucky’s legal guardian.

After Miles leaves, Brigitte goes to get their mail from their post office box. Lucky prepares for her future as a famous scientist by writing a museum exhibit on the tarantula hawk wasp. After Brigitte gets home, she goes to finish the laundry that Lucky was supposed to have done. However, she found a snake has gotten into the dryer. Brigitte is terrified of snakes, so she seals the dryer closed with duct tape. Lucky approaches the problem like a scientist, banging on the dryer until the snake goes back out through the vent and into the desert.

Lucky leaves Brigitte listening to sad French songs and goes to visit Short Sammy in his water tank house. Sammy is trying to find a way to make the government surplus food tasty. Lincoln is there, and the three of them talk about Brigitte and the differences between Hard Pan and France. Short Sammy suggests that Brigitte needs a job.

On Sunday, Lucky calls Lincoln to talk about the urn containing her mother’s ashes. Lucky had been given the urn two years ago, just after Brigitte arrived, and was supposed to sprinkle the ashes on the ground at the memorial service. However, she had not been able to do it. Lincoln tells Lucky that the man who had brought the ashes had been her father. Lucky had not known this and asks why. Lincoln has no answer, but he gives her a beautiful knot he had woven.

Later that day, Lucky listens in on the twelve-step meeting for...

(The entire section is 1370 words.)