Lucky’s – A Magical Saga of Love, Family and Second Chances (Picador 2020) by debut author Andrew Pippos is everything I enjoy in a novel but nothing I expected. This story about migration, family, food, ambition, greed, loyalty, tragedies, connections and disconnections is a sweeping saga spanning a century and several generations of a Greek-Australian family.
It is funny, poignant, moving, frustrating and optimistic. It reminds us of the ties of family, the coincidences and serendipity and synchronicity of life, and the hope that guides us despite our failings. This is a fascinating tale superbly told. Reading this novel, you almost feel as if you are sitting at the author’s feet as he spins this yarn into gold.
This could easily be classified as one of Australia’s classic pieces of formative literature. It depicts times and places past that make up our country’s heritage of migrant workers and their families, their burning ambition to succeed, their work ethic, the racism against which they struggled, the familiarities of the home countries they left behind, and the determination with which they committed to building a life here in their new country. Each of the characters we meet has their failings and sadnesses, their dreams and hopes, the terrible flaws that blight their interaction with others, and the pure moments of love and light that they choose to bestow. Each is rich and multi-layered, woven tightly into this tapestry of a multicultural life.
Lucky’s tells the fictional story of Vasilis ‘Lucky’ Mallios and how he acquired a nation-wide conglomerate of Lucky’s American restaurants / diners. It is the story of Emily Main, escaping a troubled marriage by fleeing to Australia to write the narrative non-fiction piece that she hopes will consolidate her journalism name. It is the tale of the ancestors of both these people, and the secret entanglement that has stayed hidden for decades. It’s about gambling, fire, a restaurant chain and the game show Wheel of Fortune. It’s about guilt, missing fathers, violence, regret, convenience, risk-taking, success; it’s about winning and losing, in both love and business.
The writing is warm and well-crafted; the characters authentic and engaging. It reads like a literary biography. Such is the quality of the storytelling, and the seamless interweaving with real life events, that I feel sure Lucky’s must have actually existed. The author takes us from 2002 to 1945, from 1972 to 1913, from 1994 to 1938, but always returning us to 2002, when Emily meets Lucky, and they each revisit their pasts and begin to piece together the puzzles of their lives.