Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 20, 2021

Lucky’s, by Andrew Pippos

It’s a curious thing: nothing about the marketing of Lucky’s appealed to me, and I abstained from reading it even when it was nominated for the Miles Franklin and the Prime Minister’s awards. But Sue’s post about migrant stories that are not memoirs, plus the book winning the Readings prize for new writers prompted me to check it out.  I took a library copy away with me to Beechworth for a couple of days and found that there’s more to it than the marketing suggested.

Just in case you haven’t seen it, here’s the blurb:

Lucky’s is a story of family.

It is also about a man called Lucky.
His restaurant chain.
A fire that changed everything.
A New Yorker article which might save a career.
The mystery of a missing father.
An impostor who got the girl.
An unthinkable tragedy.
A roll of the dice.
And a story of love, lost, sought and won again, (at last).

What I liked about it was that there’s a moral dilemma that lies at the heart of the novel.  ‘Secrets’ are an overworked trope in contemporary commercial fiction, and there’s rarely any attempt to grapple with the problem of what to do about secrets kept not because of shame or pride, but because a vow was made to keep it that way for ethical reasons. There is an untested assumption that every secret ought to be uncovered, and that anyone who wants to know, is entitled to know it. That having everything out in the open is universally A Good Thing.

Pippos complicates the dilemma a little by conflating a daughter’s desire to know about her father with her being a journalist in pursuit of a story to write, but essentially she wants to know why she is not being told about him because she is curious.  So this is not a case of wanting to know one’s medical history or wanting to meet extended family or possible siblings.

So, should Lucky tell Emily that her father paid some random thug to vandalise his café, but it went too far because the thug had issues of his own?  Should Lucky break his promise to his ex-wife Valia because someone else is being blamed for the tragedy that ensued? Who decides whether it’s important to keep a secret or not?

Along the way there is the story of Lucky’s rise and fall, his flaws and failures, and his attempts at redemption.  It’s not great literature, but it is a jolly good story.

See also Alison Huber’s review at Readings, where you can also buy it at a special price.

Every month is AusReadingMonth at ANZLitLovers, but this post is a contribution to #ausreadingmonth2021 at Brona’s This Reading Life.

Author: Andrew Pippos
Title: Lucky’s
Publisher: Picador (Pan Macmillan), 2020
Cover design by Nathan Burton
ISBN: 9781760787332, pbk., 368 pages
Source: Kingston Library


Responses

  1. […] Lucky’s, Andrew Pippos (Pan Macmillan Australia, Picador Australia), see my review […]

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  2. Yay! Someone reviewed it. But I’m still not tempted to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve reminded me that I do should add another review from somewhere…

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  3. I was disappointed by the book and puzzled by the shortlistings and Readings Prize. The whole story seems to hinge on a coincidence and I think that is never a good thing in a novel.

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    • Hmmm… most of the time, I think you’re right. But then, there’s The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish, a terrific novel that I heard about at Melbourne Jewish Book Week where the author said — and I agree — that coincidences do happen in real life and so they can occur in novels. The skill lies in making them believable coincidences.

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      • I knew you would say that and authors would say that, ha, ha – and it’s true; coincidences do happen. Still don’t like it when the whole story hinges on one.

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    • I read it and liked it. I didn’t see where the book hung on a coincidence?

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      • Hello, thanks for your comment:)
        This is a tricky one to answer without giving spoilers, so I’m deliberately being vague, but I think she means what followed from when a man with money just happened to turn up at the right time.
        From what I know of Greeks and Italians in the postwar period, they pooled their resources together as families and small communities to get the capital to buy homes and businesses, but Lucky is an outsider because he’s from America rather than Europe.

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        • Do you mean the gift from the Englishman? [LH edited to remove spoiler] I took the gift to be a form of atonement. His daughter is later drawn to the cafes because all he leaves her is a painting of one.

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          • I hope you don’t mind, Jo, I edited your comment just a tiny bit to remove the spoiler. Yes, I think it was meant to be atonement, and I was surprised it was accepted. Me, I would have gone to the police without pausing for breath!
            This is the problem with digging around in parental history, sometimes people find out that the parent was a horrible person.

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  4. “It’s not great literature, but it is a jolly good story.”
    Definitely appreciate this vein of storytelling, in the right moment. And, to the point that WG was making recently, we do need more stories about emigration and immigration that expand the nature of the experience, so that readers remember that it’s not a monolithic experience (as if anything is).

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    • Yes, in an era when every second person you meet is a migrant, the migrant memoir is (mostly) past its use by date.

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  5. And now, I’ve added it to my reading list :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for the link Lisa. I sort of understand your not being drawn to it – the cover design and all those blurbs are off-putting to me too, but the various listings and the migration element have intrigued me. With all the books I have I probably won’t get to it, but I’m interested.

    I like your comment about “secrets”, and the untested notion that maybe it is valid to keep a secret. Good point. When I see “secret” on the blurb, I tend to be put off, unless something else about the book – an author I like, or somesuch – overcomes that concern.

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    • Yes, it’s become so hackneyed, I need something else to tweak my interest as well.

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  7. […] Andrew Pippos | Lucky’s (reviewed by Lisa @ANZ Lit Lovers) […]

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  8. […] Andrew Pippos | Lucky’s (reviewed by Lisa @ANZ Lit Lovers) […]

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  9. […] Lucky’s is set around a restaurant chain. You can read Lisa’s thoughts in her review. […]

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