Cover image for We wish you luck
We wish you luck
Physical Description:
310 pages ; 22 cm
"A coming-of-age campus novel about a group of students who take revenge on a professor after she destroys one of their own. 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" --


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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.

Author Notes

Caroline Zancan is the author of the novel Local Girls. She is a graduate of Kenyon College and holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. A Senior Editor at Henry Holt, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their children.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Zancan's inventive, addictive second novel (after Local Girls) follows the bonds, ambitions, and betrayals within a group of aspiring writers at a low-residency MFA program. The book is narrated as a collective "we" by the students at competitive Fielding College, but the story focuses on three particular students: Leslie, a spitfire who wants to write erotica and make money; Hannah, who attracts Leslie's attention after she submits in workshop a short story about a young woman who has lost her mother; and Jimmy, a talented poet whose mysterious background is a source of gossip in the program. Also at Fielding is their teacher, Simone, a new faculty member and former model with a bestselling debut novel under her belt. Zancan spends much of the first act wittily conveying the unique textures of a writing program, and convincingly shows the closeness that develops between Leslie, Hannah, and Jimmy. But when Jimmy experiences a devastating critique of his poems in a workshop led by Simone, the dark turns of the story are set into motion. Zancan excels at portraying the claustrophobia and competitiveness that can arise when someone is near others who share the same goals. This ambitious novel about love and revenge reads like a thriller, while asking probing questions about what it means to make art and how artists influence each other, for better or worse. Agent: Monika Woods, Curtis Brown, Ltd. (Jan.)

Kirkus Review

Two crafty graduate students plot their revenge when a famous novelist abuses her power.The collective voice that powers this novel belongs to the classmates of Hannah, a quiet but well-traveled writer with a keen editorial eye; Leslie, an outspoken erotica writer who keeps sex off the page in all her workshop submissions; and Jimmy, a brilliant but reserved poet suffering from depression. When Simone, Jimmy's workshop leader at the prestigious Fielding low-residency MFA program, tears Jimmy's submission apart in front of the entire class, the small community is shaken by her viciousness. Simone's criticism pushes an already fragile Jimmy over the edge, and Leslie and Hannah leap into action to prove Simone's not just a bad teacher, but an egomaniacal plagiarist. Zancan (Local Girls, 2015) writes in the third person plural as the Fielding graduates attempt to re-create what happened the year before they parted ways. "Maybe it was because Hannah, Leslie, and Jimmy's story was more interesting, always and finally, than the unfinished novels we kept in drawers after we graduated and the chap books we self-published, that it always drew us back in," the narrators write, considering their continued fascination with graduate school drama. In its best moments, the novel captures the quirky habits and strange personalities of those who are forced to love and practice their art in stolen moments, in two week intervals, during a low-residency MFA. But it also, at times, belabors what could be a powerful story about institutional power and the collective responsibility of storytelling in order to build suspense. "We wouldn't think anything of it until later, though," the narrators insist as they recount Hannah and Leslie's maneuverings. "At the time it was only happiness we felt." When Zancan at last gets down to the business of telling the story, she captures the fraught environment of almost-grown-ups on campus in sharp, unsparing detail and with lyrical momentum. While the clamorous chorus of her collective narrator occasionally elbows the thread of the plot out of the way, Zancan nevertheless asks intriguing questions about power, complicity, and the urge to tell someone else's story.A sinuous, shape-shifting campus novel that promises more heft than it delivers. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Seventeen students from various walks of life arrive in Albany to begin their MFA writing program. The cliques soon become obvious, but three individuals quickly stand out: Hannah, a beautiful, put-together woman whose poetry has already been published; Leslie, the rebellious one who wants to write erotica; and Jimmy, the passionate but seemingly inconsequential prodigy. The trio's unlikely friendship becomes an enigma to their fellow writing students, who love observing them. When visiting professor Simone, a young, best-selling author, arrives, she disturbs the balance with her harsh critiques and pernicious demeanor. And after tragedy strikes during their second year, vengeance becomes imminent. The three writers soon witness love, death, and ruin during their residencies and come together to create their collective narrative of revenge. Zancan (Local Girls, 2016) weaves together an extraordinary story peopled by fascinating characters who are not easily forgotten. She explores the communal process of literary production and creates a palpable tension between creation and destruction that will keep readers engaged.--Emily Park Copyright 2019 Booklist



There is no train ride in the world prettier than the one from Penn Station to Albany. Ten of the seventeen people in our class took that train up to the first June residency. The solemn, solitary appreciation that those of us on the train had for the violent ripples of the Hudson River, which ran along the tracks, and the eerie, radioactive-orange just-after-sunset light is one of the few things we all had in common. We sat in separate rows-separate cars where possible-pretending not to see one another when we passed each other in the aisles, knowing these three hours would be the last we'd have completely to ourselves for the next ten days. It was half camp, half graduate program we were headed to. Half vacation-at least, it used up all our vacation days-half second job. We only had to be on campus for two ten-day residencies a year, which we sometimes hated telling people, because it made it seem like a part-time program, when in reality we had to mail our professors packets with twenty pages of new work and two critical papers every month, which was considerably harder than drinking wine on campus during the stretches we were technically "in school." In between residencies, we didn't have the luxury of writing all day, and had to set alarms an hour earlier than we would have for our paying work alone, and we scribbled good lines on napkins during lunch breaks. But we graduated without all the debt. There are fewer than ten low-residency MFA programs in the country, and the classes tend to be small, but that only makes it a more exclusive club. Fielding's program was set up so that its students had minimal interaction with the liberal arts undergrads-our residencies were held during their summer and winter breaks. The undergrads had not yet tasted the tedium and burnt coffee that best characterizes most entry-level office jobs, which we felt certain kept them from fully appreciating the beauty of a campus we loved at first sight. We all had secret lives back home. We were doctors and judges and waitresses. Baristas and teachers and marketing managers. We had children and grandchildren, boyfriends, wives, and pets, pictures and anecdotes about whom, it was silently and mutually agreed, would come out for sharing only once, in the beginning of the first residency. They were the tools of our procrastination, interrupting the stories we were working on to ask for a warm cup of milk or the name of the new neighbor, just when those stories were starting to get good. This was our time-time for which we had given up tropical cruises, family reunions, and exotic destination weddings. We had shown up tired and droopy to our jobs the mornings after all-nighters pulled to make packet deadlines, and typed dialogue on our cell phones in the middle of our children's dance recitals. And so, during the ten-day stretch when our part-time campus beckoned and kept us, we guarded our time vigilantly, careful of the omniscient threat of home and all its comforts. The program's students generally fell into three categories. The first was the married accountants. Or married ad-copy writers. Or married drug reps. People who had jobs that no one's practical father had ever warned against. Monotonous, reliable, well-paying work that came with benefits and retirement plans and that nobody ever dreamed about doing when they were young. These holders of practical jobs were almost always men, but it was not their practical jobs or their gender that really defined this first kind of student. It was their boredom. When they were off campus they fought their boredom in the small, suburban towns they lived in by writing gratuitously violent stories in clunky, showy prose that always felt like a version of somebody else's writing, but less sure of itself, less effortless. It was prose you could feel working. The rest of us almost felt bad for them, because it was clear that their overwritten Westerns and Brooklyn crime novels had been written by someone who had never seen the desert or ridden a subway, but also that these stories had been labored over, redrafted again and again, and were loved. We didn't, though-feel that bad for them-because during the ten days they were on campus this group of students fought their boredom by flirting with the twentysomething female students who had not been out of school long enough to realize that the beers these men bought for them, and the men's willingness to laugh at their jokes or encourage their latest novel ideas, were all bad clichZs. The only people more convinced than the rest of us that these men would never do anything with their lackluster, after-hours writing ambition and their time in the program except maybe strain their marriages even further than they already were, were the men themselves. They didn't have the stack of rejections the rest of us did, because they hadn't bothered to submit their work anywhere. We all secretly took pride in having Lucas White and Robbie Myers as our class representatives to the larger married-accountant body of students, because they took the art of revelry to a new level. Noticing, on the first night of our first residency, that our informal semicircle of first-years drinking wine out of plastic Solo cups dispersed earlier than it might have if the grass hadn't been so itchy, they drove into town to get those bouncy balls that double as chairs. They eventually incorporated the balls into the literary drinking games they created, which had surprisingly thoughtful and complex rules. During our last residency Lucas threw Robbie a surprise thirty-seventh birthday party that featured a homemade cake with Lucas's face on it. Though we all laughed when he uncovered the cake, we had to admit that the homemade buttercream frosting was as delicious as any we'd ever tasted. It was only years after we left campus for the last time that we realized these flourishes had been as inspired as the sturdiest, most well-crafted lines of prose any of us could point to in our own work-we can still recall the surprising way the vanilla of the frosting and the coconut of the cake took turns arriving on our tongues. We feel bad, remembering that cake now, about how we assumed their games and jokes and general good natures made them less serious writers than the rest of us, even as we played the games and laughed at the jokes, and retreated to our dorm rooms feeling less alone in this strange place because of them. Though each of us could point to plenty of times we'd been on the receiving end of Robbie's cutting humor, Lucas was the one who was truly gifted at pushing boundaries and buttons. A bad case of septic arthritis as a child had left him with a pronounced limp. His four older brothers had taken it as their duty to teach him that the most effective way to avoid jokes at his expense was to think up the cleverest, most stinging insults before anyone else could, so that by lobbing the biggest stones at himself he would leave only pebbles for bullies. He took this habit of his as permission to point out the blemishes and soft spots the rest of us tried to hide about ourselves. And though none of us really minded, given that he never focused too much on any one target, some of us swore his limp was more pronounced just before or after his most savage ribbing, reminding us why these liberties were his to take. More important, though, his limp left him with a prescription for medical marijuana, which he and Robbie smoked freely around campus. Spotting any sort of authority, even on the distant horizon, they made fast, delighted work of pointing to the massive joint between them, Lucas's I need it for medicine timed perfectly to Robbie's It's for his limp. Robbie never bothered to make up an excuse for the considerable number of hits he himself took. The next group of people was the retirees and the babies. The former doctors and lawyers who wanted to leave some record of the careers they had just retired from, and all the strange and interesting things they had seen and the noble acts they had done in the face of them-the jury that had returned the verdict they had gone to bed praying for every night for three years but never really expected; the guilty clients they knew how to help and the innocent ones they didn't; the patient who survived a three-story fall or fourteen-hour surgery and the healthy thirtysomething who had died on the table during a routine procedure. These students were always the gentlest in workshop and rarely drank or danced in the student center. We saw them walking sometimes in the early morning, on the edge of campus, while the rest of us scrambled to the dining hall to grab something on the way to class before they stopped serving breakfast, and again during open, unscheduled chunks of time in the afternoon, heading out into the woods with their binoculars, eager to find the rare birds the Vermont woods are known for. The counterpoint to these gray-haired baby boomers were the twenty-three-year-olds who had come to the program at the very start of their postschool lives, with everything ahead of them, unsure how to fill the years to come. They didn't necessarily have a passion for writing; the problem was that they didn't really have a passion for anything-if they had done better on their LSATs they might've gone to law school. Some of them already had graduate degrees. They worked in coffee shops and volunteered on political campaigns when they weren't on campus. Tammy had just retired from thirty years of social work for the state of Virginia. She also had a law degree she still occasionally used for pro bono work. She was the authentic version of the country protagonists so many of us tried in vain to capture on the page. She used words like Mama without any irony, or even any awareness that this was not how everyone addressed their mothers. Her work was cancerous with the worst things her career had shown her-the most hopeless cases and the darkest parental acts-but she had the good sense not to describe them in any detail, and instead she let them live just off the page, letting your imagination do the dirty work. The language she used to convey these things was abundantly unfussy; her words were functional, not acrobatic. That someone who knew as little as she did about verbal pyrotechnics knew that what went unsaid was more powerful than even the sharpest, most colorful language reminded us all that as useful as training was, predisposition counted for something, too. The details of the various hells her career had taken her through were not the only things she withheld. She had introduced herself as only "Tammy" to all of us-no last name. People in her workshop confirmed that it was the only name on top of her writing sample. She was the first person in our class whose name we all knew. The final group was the industry people-the people who worked at magazines and online journals that reviewed books, sometimes even at publishing houses. They never came right out and said that they knew things about books and writing that you didn't, but their knowing, pressed-lip smiles and their literary tote bags made it so they didn't have to. They occasionally hung out at the student center, but they mostly drank nice wines and brown liquors that they had brought up on the train from New York, in small, exclusive groups in their rooms. They judged the married accountants harder than anybody, and the accountants learned quickly not to make a romantic target out of anyone from this group. Mimi Kim was the social media coordinator for a small press in Brooklyn and relished any opportunity to display her considerable knowledge of things that have had exactly zero effect on the course of human existence. She knew what appetizers were served at the Nobel Prize ceremony and the name of the Silver Lake speakeasy that served the strongest gin cocktails. She knew which Metro-North lines went to which long-weekend destinations and at which parties she was likely to meet people who owned houses in each of them. She knew the paint colors on the walls of Joan Didion's apartment. Though there was some contention between the groups, there was no hierarchy. The married accountants were the ones who kept the parties going late into the night, not caring how fresh they were for the next morning's workshop, and even the most well-behaved, nondrinking retiree and most dedicated industry person needed the escape of a drink at these parties at least once a residency. Everyone knew the industry people could help you get published, or pass along the email address of an editor who would look at your short story. And the retirees could give you the Heimlich should you choke in the cafeteria, or serve as your legal representative should you get caught driving back to campus after one too many drinks or without a license, and they could spot you money for drinks at the student center-they seemed like real people in the way the rest of us, when placed alongside them, didn't. They were the adults, and the only ones who didn't define themselves by the program-who didn't necessarily bring it up when they met new people at parties and meetings in the Real World. Occasionally there was cross-pollination between the groups, letting everyone feel a little better about themselves, writers not generally a group of people who like to think of themselves as close-minded or exclusive. Sarah Jacobs probably had less in common with Mimi than any other member of our class, even if they were both women of roughly the same age. We liked to joke that if reincarnation were real and each person had a different number of lives in their back pocket, Sarah was on her first. She was all big-eyed curiosity and guilelessness and had enough freckles to make this adorable instead of tiresome. At twenty-three, she was still living over her parents' garage and, until the June we all started at Fielding, worked as a lifeguard at her local YMCA. There was a story Sarah's family members liked to tell that Mimi reported back to us after she started vacationing with them. During a visit they made her freshman year at Wellesley, Sarah's midwestern, baseball-loving family had insisted on going to a Red Sox game. Upon entering the stadium they noticed the purposefulness of her gait and, happily deciding that this meant her time away from home had bred self-sufficiency, followed her without a word. They were dismayed to learn, upon the start of their second lap around the stadium, that she had been walking for the sake of walking, eager to explore the stadium and whatever curiosities it held. During the seventh-inning stretch, though, when a rogue baseball came directly at her little sister, Sarah batted the ball away without a sound or flinch, shattering all the bones in her right hand. She had unexpected reserves of extraordinary capability when she needed them. It's not that she wouldn't have been able to find the family's seats if she had any real desire to, it's just that she sometimes wanted to marvel at the shapes of the clouds. It wasn't so much laziness as an appreciation for the sky. Mimi knew the sky was blue only by its reputation. She found what was happening on the ground, behind doors closed in front of her and in darkened corners of whatever Brooklyn neighborhood was in the process of gentrifying, so much more interesting than anything she can find out by looking up on a clear day. And yet despite these and other differences, by the time we graduated the girls had gone in on a time-share at the Jersey Shore together, and Sarah had spent enough nights on Mimi's couch in Brooklyn that she stopped having to tell people she still lived at home. Excerpted from We Wish You Luck: A Novel by Caroline Zancan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.