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Lucky Strikes


Lucky Strikes

“I don’t know nothing ‘bout --- ‘bout feeling. All I know is fighting. And holding on. At the end of the day, I don’t got much left for nothing else.”

Depression-era Virginia.

Fourteen-year-old Amelia is forced to grow up real fast when her mama dies, leaving her in charge of her two little siblings --- and the family gas station, Brenda’s Oasis. With her papa long gone, it is up to Amelia to make sure her and her siblings do not get separated. So when Harley Blevins, the local oil tycoon, comes sniffing at their pumps, Amelia quickly has to come up with a father. When a hobo comes tumbling out of a passing truck, Amelia knows what she must do.

New York Times Notable Book author and Edgar and Dagger award nominee Louis Bayard has crafted a gem of a novel. Hilarious, full of heart and totally unexpected, LUCKY STRIKES is a literary gift.

This novel started off slow, setting the scene, introducing a wide cast of characters, and letting us know that Amelia --- “Melia” --- is not someone to be messed with.

“You got five more minutes to cry,” I said. “Ten minutes to eat your oatmeal. Then we got work to do."

"Hilarious, full of heart and totally unexpected, LUCKY STRIKES is a literary gift. Because of Melia, I see LUCKY STRIKES as a call to arms for girls everywhere."

I love Melia. She is so amazingly smart for someone who did not get a full education, though very few children did during the Depression, and she is kickbutt. No, she does not punch people in the face, shoot arrows or throw spears. She is just a normal girl in a bad situation, but she knows what needs to be done and does it --- end of story. Not only is there no waiting around or asking men for advice, Melia actually tells the men around her what she needs them to do, and they do it. Why? They all respect her and want to see her succeed.

LUCKY STRIKES is definitely not a romance, but the little romance it does have is very sweet. Dudley Blevins, Harley’s nephew and Melia’s love interest, is so adorable. I find him very charming, especially when he brings Melia to his favorite rock in the woods for their first “date.” I do not like Melia’s motives for that date --- no spoilers! --- but she does redeem herself by the end.

Lastly, I want to talk about Hiram, the hobo Melia peels off the side of the station, drunk and alone. I was wary of him, but he quickly became one of my favorite characters. Here is this man who has been to heaven and hell and back, Hong Kong, San Francisco and Clark Gable’s dressing room --- but he has never had a real family. He has been everywhere, done everything and fallen from grace, but these kids save him. He steps up, finds himself and realizes that going everywhere does not matter if you do not have a family to come home to. Melia and her siblings save Hiram from himself, and, in turn, he saves them, too. One of my favorite parts of this story was seeing them grow as a family.

Now, Melia’s one fatal flaw is underestimating everyone around her. She underestimates Dudley’s intelligence and almost loses him because of it. She underestimates Hiram’s ability to provide and almost loses him. Melia underestimates Harley’s drive to take over Brenda’s Oasis, and she almost loses the station and everyone she loves. She has this terrible habit but the person she underestimates the most is herself. In the beginning, Melia’s only strategy for survival is to go for it alone. But she hits some speeds bumps along the way and realizes that she does not have to. She thought she had no one because her mama and pa were gone, but blood does not make a family --- love does. The truckers who stop for gas are her family. The townspeople who came to her mama’s wake are her family. Hiram is her family. Melia just does not realize this until it is too late.

Because of Melia, I see LUCKY STRIKES as a call to arms for girls everywhere. It teaches them to work for what they deserve, to not be too proud to accept help and never underestimate other’s abilities or their own. It teaches them that they do not need luck to survive, just love.

I cannot think of any novels similar to this to recommend, but LUCKY STRIKES is perfect for fans of the movie True Grit with Hailee Steinfeld and Jeff Bridges.

Reviewed by Bryn D., Teen Board Member on July 14, 2016

Lucky Strikes
by Louis Bayard