Lucky’s by Andrew Pippos

1. First lines. 2. Published 2020 Picador Australia, an imprint of Pan Macmillan 3. Wheel of Fortune [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia 4. Table [Free for commercial use; No attribution required]
Plot:

Lucky’s is the name of a restaurant chain started by Vasilis ‘Lucky’ Mallios, a Greek American who migrated to Australia after World War II. In 2002, an English writer called Emily comes to Australia to write about the restaurant chain that is somehow linked to her own family. The history of the restaurant chain and the people involved is told in this book. There are some terrible tragedies and some errors of judgement that affect Lucky’s financial situation, and he decides to win money on the game show, Wheel of Fortune, to resurrect the successes of his past.

Quotes:

“A new customer, stewbum drunk, arrived two days later. He rode a grey, malnourished horse, bridle but no saddle, into the Cafe Achillion and gave a tug on the reins when he reached the counter. The cafe doors were tall, they pushed inwards, and the poor horse was indoors before any objection could be raised.”

“‘I want our customers to have a genuine Australian-American-Greek cafe education. Lemon and pineapple drinks, that’s the next favourite thing. A soda fountain, sundaes, shakes of milk. People will eat it up. Maybe a US sign for display, big like CALIFORNIA. We want an American theme. Name some other states in America.’ ‘Illinois? That’s where I was born.’ ‘I can’t see it in my mind. Name me some more.’

“That year, at the outbreak of war, Achilles told his daughters that he had queued at the recruitment branch like all the other men – like other fathers, he wanted to do his duty – but the army did not have a service shirt to fit his broad chest, and the stupid army people had refused to enlist him.”

“Then Lucky got another turn: he gently spun the wheel and the stagehands shot each other amused looks and one of them gave Marjorie the okay gesture high above his head, meaning Lucky didn’t need to redo the spin. They knew he was trying to game the wheel.”

My thoughts:

Very highly recommended. This is a highly entertaining read, despite some horrendous events that occur. Lots of fascinating characters give the story variety, and multiple bizarre situations (e.g. the horse riding into the cafe) add that extra zing.

Book reviews:
  • Guardian: “a must-read saga, and a gripping monument to Greek diaspora. Pippos’ first book is a mouthwatering tale that encapsulates family drama, true crime and Greek tragedy – with pathos-filled characters that pop.”
  • Readings: “Without a doubt, Lucky’s is a standout novel of this difficult year, and one that you’ll be eager to thrust into the hands of all your friends – to remind them of how much fun reading a great book really is, and how the answer to pretty much every problem is always: love.”

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