Vasilis Mallios is not living up to his nickname of “Lucky” when he is knocked back by the bank in his loan application. Maybe he was relying on his nickname because his financial situation almost guaranteed his rejection. The bank loans officer remembers the “Lucky’s” restaurant chain that Vasilis used to own. Vasilis, “Lucky”, is a Greek American who migrated to Sydney after the war. Lucky built up an empire of restaurants but lost them all. The reason for the loan application is to start a new restaurant.
Michael and Emily had been married seven years, happily, not so much, when Michael told her he was having an affair. Married for one year less than the job she had been made redundant from last year. No valid reason offered, downsizing the euphemism. Just thanks, and you are no longer needed.
Emily was a subeditor at “The Independent”. After finding no work she comes up with an idea to write a story about the rise and fall of Lucky’s franchise. She pitches the story to a friend at “The New Yorker” and is genuinely surprised when her friend likes the idea.
What makes the story interesting is a shooting in one of the restaurants, or cafes as they came to be called, in which nine people were killed. It took place in the last café that Lucky owned. The shooting is what makes the pitch interesting to the New Yorker.
Both the protagonists have no confidence, no self-belief. Both have had major setbacks in their lives and are down on their “luck”. Both characters use the word “imposter” to describe themselves, and both have failed marriages. Each believe that this story will be their salvation, will turn their fortunes around.
A strange thing happens when Emily is interviewing Lucky. Emily still holds on to a painting of a Lucky café that was painted by her father before he committed suicide. It was this painting that gave her the idea, the inspiration, for the story. When she tells Lucky about the painting, not the suicide, Lucky asks for her father’s name. When she divulges his name, he tells her he does not recognize the name, but his reaction gives a different answer, his eyes giving away the lie. Why would he be lying?
The novel tells the tale of how these two characters are enigmatically linked. The narrative is skillfully woven, not linear, leaping back and forth in time, slowly revealing an enjoyable story which has no political undertones, no moral message. It is all about the characters, the family and the story, which is refreshing. The characters are the strength, and you find yourself hoping one can get out of trouble, that another gets what they deserve. The author forces the reader to invest and care about the characters.
An enjoyable read.
In planning for his debut novel, Lucky's, Andrew Pippos did not need to look far for inspiration. This richly layered, sweeping saga documents the rise and fall of a family restaurant business over six decades.
Growing up, Andrew was a regular visitor to his family's café in regional Australia. The Pippos's Café De-Luxe operated in the remote New South Wales town of Brewarrina for more than eighty years. Andrew's early experiences at the Café De-Luxe laid the foundation of his work as a writer. His relatives-who emigrated from the island of Ithaca, home of the hero Odysseus-would regale him with their favourite stories from Greek mythology, and over the years, his love of legends evolved into a love of literature, which led Andrew to tell stories of his own.
The compelling role of the Greek-Australian café within modern Australian identity is increasingly documented in popular culture and history books alike. While sadly few exist now, for much of the second half of the twentieth century these cafés could be found on urban shopping streets and in rural country towns. They represented a new Australian zeitgeist and symbolised every-day multiculturalism. The Greek-Australian cafe milieu gave Andrew his earliest sense of community.
Lucky's is Andrew Pippos's debut novel. A former journalist, Andrew has a doctorate in Creative Writing and tutors at the University of Technology, Sydney. He lives in Sydney's inner west.
From the Pan Macmillan website.