Title: The Lucky Galah
Author: Tracy Sorensen
Published: February 27th 2018
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
A magnificent novel about fate, Australia and what it means to be human… it just happens to be narrated by a galah called Lucky.
It’s 1969 and a remote coastal town in Western Australia is poised to play a pivotal part in the moon landing. Perched on the red dunes of its outskirts looms the great Dish: a relay for messages between Apollo 11 and Houston, Texas.
Radar technician Evan Johnson and his colleagues stare, transfixed, at the moving images on the console -although his glossy young wife, Linda, seems distracted. Meanwhile the people of Port Badminton have gathered to watch Armstrong’s small step on a single television sitting centre stage in the old theatre. The Kelly family, a crop of redheads, sit in rare silence. Roo shooters at the back of the hall squint through their rifles to see the tiny screen.
I’m in my cage on the Kelly’s back verandah. I sit here, unheard, underestimated, biscuit crumbs on my beak. But fate is a curious thing. For just as Evan Johnson’s story is about to end (and perhaps with a giant leap), my story prepares to take flight…
If I awarded stars based purely on originality, I would easily allocate The Lucky Galah by debut author Tracy Sorensen five full stars. This unique and very Australian novel employs the use of an icon, the pink and grey galah, to narrate the events of this novel. An Australian novel through and through, The Lucky Galah offers up plenty of discussion on our land, its people and the events that define our existence.
The Lucky Galah bases itself in a tiny and remote north WA town in the 1960’s. The impending moon landing has everyone at fever pitch. At the centre of all the action is a magnificent satellite dish. This dish is to play a pivotal role in the transferring messages from the Houston to the Apollo, which is bound for the moon. Scientists and radar technicians such as Evan Johnson are also held captive by the amazing images beamed onto their consoles. While the local residents of the tiny town of Port Badminton congregate together at the old theatre, taking in the spectacular images of the moon landing. Observing all the action from afar is a gentle and perceptive galah named Lucky. It is Lucky who provides a unique take on one of mankind’s most significant and unforgettable steps.
The Lucky Galah, penned by first time author Tracy Sorensen, is one of the most original, fresh and quaint novels I have read for some time. I have to say despite suspending a small amount of disbelief, I adored the use of a non human central narrator. It worked very well in this novel and I was surprised that it never bordered on ridiculous. I can honestly say I will never look at a pink and grey galah with quite the same lens after reading this novel! It is perhaps an ambitious move to select a bird as a primary narrator, but Sorensen nails it. She manages to achieve a quiet balance between subtle insight and typical bird mannerisms, as well as inserting the behaviours that you easily come to expect from this kind of animal.
Despite the bulk of this novel being told through the wise eyes of Lucky the galah, expect to be drawn into the lives of those who surround Lucky. Evan Johnson and his wife Linda are beautifully rendered characters. There is also the wonderfully drawn Kelly family. Then there are the everyday characters that float through this text, who are both human and non human. In particular, I loved Lucky’s musings on his fellow kind.
Sorensen grounds her first novel firmly in the historical period of 1960’s Australia. This was a time of great change, revolution and radicalisation. Plenty of social and political movements were active during this time, which still manages to reach the remote town depicted in this book. Sorensen perfectly captures the building excitement and anticipation of the moon landing. She also presents a very nostalgic and quintessential glimpse into a typical outback town in the 1960’s. I enjoyed this flashback to Australia’s past very much.
Sorensen’s writing is lyrical and descriptive. I was swept away many times by her vivid descriptions of the landscape. Sorensen’s storytelling skills display her raw talent and aptitude for seeing things for an alternative point of view. The scenes where Lucky the galah receives messages from a satellite dish were a little eccentric to begin with, but once I got my head around it I seemed to embrace to idea, along with Lucky. I must also mention the direct references Sorensen makes to the classic 1964 novel, The Lucky Country, by Donald Horne, which is expertly weaved into the pages of this novel, with great care. It encouraged me to seek out a copy of The Lucky Country after reading this novel. Readers are left with a slightly open ending to this moving tale, begging them to consider their own fate and what is constitutes as being human. Big questions are raised by this thought provoking new author.
The rather unique approach of The Lucky Galah will be sure to grab many readers attention. Expect to be charmed by the vibrant Lucky the galah, by taking a full journey with this whimsical narrator. Fans of the classic Aussie film The Dish will be sure to appreciate this fine tale.
The Lucky Galah by Tracy Sorensen was published on February 27th 2018 by Pan Macmillan. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Lucky Galah, Tracy Sorensen visit here.
*I wish to thank Pan Macmillan for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Lucky Galah is book #17 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge