Set in Depression-era Virginia, this is the story of orphaned Amelia and her struggle to keep her siblings together.
With her mama recently dead and her pa sight unseen since birth, fourteen-year-old Amelia is suddenly in charge of her younger brother and sister, and of the family gas station. Harley Blevins, local king and emperor of Standard Oil, is in hot pursuit to clinch his fuel monopoly. To keep him at bay and her family out of foster care, Melia must come up with a father, and fast. And so when a hobo rolls out of a passing truck, Melia grabs opportunity by its beard. Can she hold off the hounds till she comes of age?
(Summary from GoodReads)
I went into Lucky Strikes with few expectations and was immediately surprised by how distinct the voice is. Lucky Strikes toes the fine line between middle grade and young adult—if I had to recommend it to a specific age range, I think this book would particularly appeal to sixth through eighth graders. Although Bayard’s novel had a few plotpoints where things started to feel infeasible, it’s character driven story, and by the end of the novel I cared about what happened to every last character.
Melia is unlike any heroine I’ve read before. She’s extremely smart and a hard worker who has a pretty good idea of what she wants to do with her life. She also acts as a mother figure for her little siblings Earle and Janey, and never tries to hide the truth from them, going so far as to swear regularly in front of them. Throughout the novel Melia is telling her life story, but you don’t find out who she’s giving this narrative to until the ending. It would’ve been easy to write Melia as a stubborn character who refused to change, and although she definitely is stubborn, Bayard gave her and her siblings much more nuance than that. Melia is empathetic and constantly learning how to see those around her in a new light.
As the summary says, this novel is set in depression-era Virginia, and in a lot of ways is about societal expectations. It’s about creating your own family and finding acceptance within a community, and it’s also about being different when faced with pressure to assimilate. While there are a few moments that felt either predictable or infeasible, I was genuinely surprised with how it turned out. There are some minor threads get tied up and that feels appropriate. A lot of readers will also find themselves debating whether or not what happened to Melia is what’s best for her, which would make this a great book club pick.
Lucky Strikes is definitely one of the more unique historical novels that I’ve read. It feels true to the era that’ it’s in, but it also explores how complex finding one’s place in the world can be. Readers who want a character driven historical fiction novel with a distinctive voice will love Lucky Strikes.
I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review, and they've also been kind enough to offer one copy up for a giveaway! Check out the rules below and fill out the rafflecopter form if you're interested.
*One winner will receive a hardcover copy of Lucky Strikes by Louis Bayard.
*Must be 13 years of age or older to enter.
*Open to U.S. readers only.
*Giveaway will close on August 29th at 11:59 p.m.