Tracy Sorensen’s debut novel, The Lucky Galah, is an interesting one. Narrated in parts by Lucky, the Galah, it is set in the town of Port Badminton in Western Australia that ‘sits like a sandy freckle on the top lip of the open mouth of Shark Bay, just below the nostril of the Sandhurst River’.
Based around the time of the first landing on the moon, it is also told from the perspective of some of the human residents of the town, newcomers Evan and Linda Johnson and long term locals the Kelly family. Lucky gets to observe the Kellys as this is one of her homes. Linda is a frequent visitor as Marjorie sews clothes and she comes for fittings. Lucky also gets information about the people of the town from the giant dish just out of town because, as a galah, she is ‘genetically predisposed to receive its signals’. Conversations and thoughts come her way and she learns about them and becomes a bit more ‘human’ through them, begins to ‘lose the language of my birth and to think in English’
The Kelly household with five children is contrasted with the Johnsons that even Linda feels as she leaves ‘the friendly noise and chaos of her house and enter mine, all neat and ordered’.
Evan who has brought his family from Melbourne to help establish a tracking station in the town is away at work most of the time leaving Linda at home with three-year-old Johanna. She has spent her life trying to fit in, had ‘studied how normal people lived’, and uses the skills she’s learned to adapt to this new environment. Cracks appear in their relationship. ‘The marriage of Evan and Linda is like a Venn diagram, two overlapping circles. There’s the part in the middle they share, which at first is quite large. This has already begun to narrow down as the two circles move away from each other’.
The novel goes back and forth in time including Lucky’s various homes from the nest to the Kelly’s and then to Lizzie’s cottage. Her life as an Aboriginal woman at this time is reflected with all of the difficulties and prejudices that were common then.
Sorensen has also captured other signs of the time – ‘Once upon a time, I would’ve been horrified to wear stretchy shorts outside the house. That’s how much things can change. I miss my frocks’, and the button jar where she ‘added her own buttons to the Kelly buttons, allowing them to mix in: it was like the blending of DNA’.
Interesting characters overlap to deliver a picture of a small town, told with evocative language and underlying stories.