The Lucky Galah

Tracy Sorensen

The Lucky Galah
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The Lucky Galah

Tracy Sorensen

Shortlisted for the 2019 Russell Prize for Humour Writing, shortlisted for the 2018 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction

Longlisted for the 2019 Miles Franklin Literary Award

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. Crouched around a single grainy set, radar technician Evan Johnson and his colleagues stare at the screen, transfixed, as Armstrong takes that first small step.

I was in my cage of course, 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…

The Lucky Galah is a novel about fate. About Australia. About what it means to be human. It just happens to be narrated by a galah called Lucky.


Lucky is a galah living in the remote town of Port Badminton, on the north-west coast of Australia, and she is a born storyteller. With the help of a defunct satellite dish, which can sporadically communicate the thoughts of the town’s residents, Lucky is able to show her audience who people are when they are alone. Lucky’s own story is intertwined with that of the Johnson family, who in the late 1960s move from cosmopolitan Melbourne to tiny Port Badminton, where patriarch Evan has a job as an engineer assisting NASA in their race to put man on the moon. While Evan relishes the fresh start, his wife Linda struggles – the heat, the tight-knit community and the expectations she must now live up to frequently overwhelm her.

A novel narrated by a galah might seem slightly avant-garde; one narrated by a galah receiving transmissions from a satellite dish even more so. However, I think it gives Tracy Sorensen’s writing a sense of wonder – I felt like I was experiencing all of Lucky’s triumphs and setbacks as she was. Lucky’s role in this book is to draw all of its threads together and, with the help of the satellite dish, she does this very effectively. What this novel does above all else is capture the moment right before everything changed – 1969 was the eve of a social revolution in Australia. We see this change occur through the transformation of housewife Linda Johnson, but also see her neighbour, Marjorie Kelly, left behind by the very same revolution.

This is the story of the life of a galah, but also one about living through loneliness, change, and the frustration of feeling stagnant. It is a book that is at once humorous and heartfelt, and evokes a specific era in Australian history very well.

Ellen Cregan works as a bookseller at Readings Doncaster.

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