Books & Literature

Book Review: Lucky’s, by Andrew Pippos

CONTEMPORARY FICTION: A story of family. A story about migration. It is also about a man called Lucky, his restaurant chain and a fire that changed everything.

Lucky’s is an unforgettable, serendipitous, and authentic debut from Australian writer Andrew Pippos.

This family saga is the tale of two migrant men and their quest to be successful in post-war Australia. Lucky, a Greek-American who settles in Australia after the Second World War, falls in love with a beautiful young Greek girl and begins to work in her father’s American diner. Fast forward several decades and we meet Emily—a writer who has never written anything ground-breaking, with a failing marriage and no closure of her father’s death. Commissioned to write an article about the Lucky’s franchise and its tragic dissolution in The New Yorker, she discovers that the restaurants and her father may be connected. A novel that sweeps through iconic decades of Australia, it is a nostalgic reminder of failed endeavours, naïve hope, and the humanity in us all.

Lucky is the go-getter that we all know, whose entrepreneurial endeavours encapsulates an entire generation of immigrants in Australia in the 1950s. Much like a Greek Tragedy, Lucky’s world comes crumbling around him after the peak of his success, inadvertently caused by his wife’s father, Achilles. A toxic, self-inflicted victim, Achilles’ own failures and mistakes are planted on Lucky’s shoulders. But behind every tortured man is a woman telling him to get on with it, and in the case of Achilles, it’s his two daughters. It is through the actions of both men that the women become entrenched in tragedy, as is always the case. The women are unashamedly themselves and suffer the most at the hands of our “heroes”.

Lucky’s is not melodramatic, exaggerated or embellished, as it becomes evident that the star of the story is the story itself. The family saga is dramatic and tragic enough without flourishing text, yet it is within the specific simplicity of the words that Pippos grabs us. The story sells it to us, so he needs no further dramatics. 

From reading this magnificent debut, it’s clear that Andrew Pippos will go down as one of the finest Australian storytellers of his generation. Pippos weaves his perceptive observations of a raucous family business, juxtaposed with intimate self-deprecation of the times when we find ourselves at our lowest lows. Lucky’s is bold because it encapsulates the family drama that we all know very well—whether you hate it or love it, its inevitability in our own lives is evident consistently throughout the text. Pippos dictates the conventions of our humanity perfectly, giving to us the definition of a Greek tragedy interspersed within what is sure to become an Australian classic.

Reviewed by Phoebe Christofi
Twitter: @ChristofiPhoebe

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Released: October 2020
RRP: $32.99

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