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Review: The Luck by Kathy Briggs

19 Nov 2022 4 minute read
The Luck is published by Honno Pres

Chinyere Chukwudi-Okeh

In Kathy Briggs’ debut novel The Luck lies practical life in the American Midwest in its most naked form, unfettered and raw. In very accessible language, Briggs creatively traces the familial history and ‘luck’ of the O’Grady dynasty of Oaklake, a place located somewhere near the California border across six generations.

Tough times and harsh circumstances test and try the O’Grady family across its history in a new land and despite its blood ties, challenging its authenticity, its heritage and diluting its Irish origins.

The story’s opening chapter left me in fear for the author, Kathy Briggs as it seemed as though she was exploring the best of the story at the beginning, in a very fast-paced plot, and would run out of narrative luck.

On the contrary, Briggs dishes out layers and folds of unending mystery and intrigue, and at no point did I guess correctly what would happen next. Briggs has suspense at her command and deploys it generously to the amazement of the unsuspecting reader.

We follow the life of Darragh O’Grady and the true love of his life, Beattie: two lovers who typify the truth of the expression, ‘love conquers all,’ but who have descendants who, in every way and at every point, contradict the same expression.

Their offspring challenge all that this couple stand for, leaving them to pick up the pieces and control the damage. And this unhealthy cycle becomes both a bit of generational luck and a familial trait all at once.

The narrative tests the murky waters of love and commitment, intermingled with doses of lies, deceit, ambition, desires, murder instinct, passion and many more.

From the title ― The Luck – the reader is torn between the physical Luck, chancing upon the land which becomes the O’Grady Farm, and the abstract luck, the burden of fate placed on the O’Gradys.

The texture of luck

Set mainly in Oaklake, with periodic visits and references to Piker’s Flag, California and a couple of other places, Briggs achieves a certain fluidity of narration. As through the animation of inanimate objects, Briggs transfers personhood and life to significant and symbolic things and places.

The reader is made to feel the texture of the luck, the Ponderosa, the cabin, the woodyard, the trucks. There are the buried boxes, lockets, Mimi’s dress shops, the serial consignments set adrift on the lake. Then there is the ale, the tea room, the Annie O’Grady, coffees, horses, farms and lots more.

Slowly, Oaklake transforms from a sleeping and slippery town stuck in its old conservative ways, to a half-woke progressive one scarred by the fear of its own very speedy transformation.

The reader can enjoy the magnificence of the Lake, the area of standing water which gives Oaklake life, not to mention a name but can also take life away.

The Lake embodies not only a place of respite and refuge but a threshold between safety and danger, return and escape, sanity and insanity, shackles and freedom, life and afterlife.

Hence, we see Olive yielding herself to the watery chasm of the lake, handing justice to herself like she had done to many others, without handing an olive branch to Young Mckenzie, dying Gil and Young Kelly.


Briggs succeeds in tying all the missing pieces of the puzzle at the very end of the narrative, leaving the readers to brood on their miscalculations of outcome and on a pivotal, jaw-dropping moment of realisation. Here lies the creative genius of Briggs.

The author empowers our imaginations and thoughts, allowing us to wander for a while while never losing the wonders of the plot; the reader dives in, piecing the story together along the way like a torn cloth that must now the patched up. But I bet you will realize at the tail end of this story that your guesses were as bad as mine.

Conrad, a seafarer who cast his wandering eyes upon the waters as a baby, and never looked back, becomes a central thread in the loom of the narrative, around which everything stands and falls.

Everyone reaches out for and longs for him, casting their yearning eyes across the waters to behold the open sea barren of his return or message.

Not even the ‘all-knowing’ Henry, who becomes the bridge connecting people, cities and news courtesy of his job as a mailman, cannot tell the whereabouts of Conrad.

And Conrad’s absence, much more than his presence, becomes the fulcrum of Kathy Brigg’s riveting narrative, The Luck.

The Luck by Kathy Briggs is published by Honno and is available from all good bookshops.

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