Lucky Strike is a light-hearted tale about a boy whose fortune changes when he miraculously survives being struck by lightning. Through the use of magical realism, Bobbie Pryon also explores complex themes such as friendship, bullying, and what luck really is. While Lucky Strike might a departure from Pyron’s more serious works, it remains thought-provoking and well written.
Magical realism might seem like a contradiction. After all, the one is about impossible events and the other depicts events that could be true. Pyron manages to pull it off, by creating one character who wholeheartedly believes in luck and another character who accepts only the laws of probability and logic. Nate carries around a rabbit’s foot, wishes on birthday candles, and forever hopes for his misfortune to change. In contrast, Gen persists in calculating chance, persisting in the belief that if one tosses a coin one hundred times, the odds are one will get heads about half the time.
Pyron also successfully walks the tightrope between magic and realism, by entrenching readers in the realistic world of the sea, fishing, and turtleheads, while at the same time dipping into the improbable world of being struck by lightning, living to tell the tale, AND being blessed with a Midas Touch. On the one end, Nate and Gen spend each spring visiting the beach and protecting turtle eggs. On the other end, Nate finds himself surrounded by more friends and enemies than he knows how to handle, due to his mysterious ability to pick winning numbers and tickets.
Finally, Pyron manages to pull off a magical realism tale with a style that relies on exaggeration. Open to any page and you’re bound to find a few examples. To illustrate, page one tells us that Nate’s hound dog had been snatched up by a tornado “doghouse and all” never to be seen again. Moreover, Nate had never “in the history of his eleven years on God’s green earth” won a prize. Around the midpoint, we’re told about Nate’s visit to a carnival. He plays a game where one has to knock down four miniature clowns with a ball. After Nate successfully strikes the first three clowns, he could have sworn the fourth “tried to hide behind the other clowns”
All of the above makes for a highly entertaining and fun tale, but Pyron is also a master at creating fiction of depth. There’s a message about friendship. When Nate gains popularity for the first time, he forsakes his previous friends. As a twist on this common mistake, Pyron has Gen push herself out of her comfort zone to find others who need friends. There’s a message about bullies. Not long Nate forsakes his previous friends, he ends up having to choose between them and a gang of boys whose skills lie in taunting others. Finally, there’s a message about luck. Like a person who has won the lottery, Nate is catapulted into the center of attention after being strike by lightning. Sometimes though, fame isn’t everything one expects, wants, or needs.
With each new novel, Pryon shows herself adept at writing for different age groups and in diverse genres. I first encountered her writings in 2011 when I reviewed A Dog’s Life and The Ring as part of a virtual tour. It’s been an equal delight to read Lucky Strike, so much so that I’m already looking forward to her next book.