Order in the Universe
As the novel’s title indicates, this book chronicles Lucky’s quest for a Higher Power. She takes the term from twelve-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and, just as it is intentionally vague there, so it is open-ended in the book. Lucky searches for a divine higher power, seeking (and finding) mystical signs. She also passes through a classic pattern of spiritual growth as she starts connected with the community, separates from it, passes through a troubled period of reflection, and finally returns to the community with a newfound understanding of divine presence. However, Lucky also adores science, worshipping Charles Darwin and applying principles drawn from science to her life. Other characters also find ways to make order out of chaos: Lincoln makes beautiful knots from trash, Short Sammy’s house used to be a water tower, and Brigitte is making a place for herself in America. That there really is a grand order to the universe is demonstrated by how everything works out in the end: the town finds the children, and everyone is present for the memorial service Lucky needed to have.

Hard Pan is a very isolated place. Only 43 people live there. Many of them are doubly or trebly isolated. Lucky’s mother is dead, and Lucky does not live with her father. Brigitte is far from her native France. Miles’s mother is in jail. The town is surrounded by a literal desert, but the individuals who live there each have and must face an emotional desert.

However, in this isolation, there is connection: people reach out to take care of one another, and they do so profoundly. These acts of connection range from the collective and organized (the twelve-step meetings) to the spontaneous, as when the entire town turns out to search for Miles after the dust storm. Individual acts of connection are just as varied and striking....

(The entire section is 556 words.)