If Lucky’s (published by Picador/Pan Macmillan Australia, 2020), the debut novel of Sydney based Australian writer Andrew Pippos, is anything to go by, then there’s far more to your local cafe than meets the eye. For instance, have you ever thought about the history standing behind the place where you wait for your coffee or lunch to be served? Or wondered what the owners did before they worked there?
Emily, a journalist living in London, has always been intrigued by a small painting of a cafe in Sydney named Lucky’s, a gift from her late father when she was a child. Certain there is a story to the artwork, and the cafe itself, she sets off to Australia to write an article about it. Before long she meets Vasilis Mallios, nicknamed Lucky, the eponymous former owner of the once sprawling Lucky’s cafe franchise.
But Lucky is a man down on his luck. He was forced to sell the franchise after it became burdened with debt. The deal saw him retain one property, but he had to close that after it became the site of a mass-shooting. When Emily finds him, Lucky, now aged in his seventies, he has high hopes of making a comeback, and reopening the cafe chain.
History may be linear, but as Emily discovers, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to follow. She knows there is more to the connection between Lucky and her deceased father than he lets on. And what of the secrecy shrouding the source of the money used to establish the business? Why did Valia, Lucky’s former wife, leave him? Is this connected to a family tragedy many years earlier?
With a narrative that slides back and forth through the twentieth century, Lucky’s blends family drama with a hint of mystery. That Lucky’s was shortlisted in this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award speaks volumes for this work by a first time published author. It is a story with charm and appeal, I get the feeling this is fiction we’ll be seeing beyond the pages of a book.