Summary and book reviews of Lucky Strike by Nancy Zafris

Lucky Strike

by Nancy Zafris

Lucky Strike
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2005, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2006, 336 pages

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Book Summary

By turns meditative and funny, frightening, witty and refreshingly wise, Lucky Strike explores the ways that language simply put can mine the inexpressible. In the process, a young widow and her two children learn much about uranium but even more about the nature of the love that binds them.

Just as she did in her New York Times Notable debut novel, The Metal Shredders, Nancy Zafris follows a colorful cast of characters into uncharted fictional territory, this time landing in the canyon country of the desert Southwest in 1954. For motivations as straightforward as striking it rich to reasons far more complex and confounding, they each embark on very personal divergent journeys across an unforgiving countryside, even while their quest to find uranium unites them. By turns meditative and funny, frightening, witty and refreshingly wise, Lucky Strike explores the ways that language simply put can mine the inexpressible. In the process, a young widow and her two children learn much about uranium but even more about the nature of the love that binds them. This is a story to touch your heart.

Chapter Four

Jean and the children accepted his invitation to drive to the town. Harry dropped the stack of reading material on his front seat onto the floor. Jean propped her feet on the magazines and old newspapers; when she looked down her heels had cut into a Life magazine. She picked up a piece of the cover photo: a pair of intense eyes, darkened almost into a Zorro mask. She fit the ripped edges to another piece and Greta Garbo stared up at her.

Harry and his International Harvester reminded Jean of something she had read concerning the ease of finding uranium:

"I'd been driving along the same road to and from work for years. One day I stopped to change a flat tire and became one of the richest men in the state," said a former plumber's helper and one of the state's newest uraniumaires."

When Harry showed up with his flat tire, it was exactly like one of these testimonials in her many ...

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About the Book
In her second novel, Nancy Zafris once again creates a cast of colorful characters who, in their search for uranium deposits, find themselves along the way. Lucky Strike is a sometimes zany, always poignant look at the unexpected friendships that develop among this group and the ties that bind them.

It's the 1950s and the U.S. government's atomic weaponry program has fueled a demand for uranium. Jean Waterman is a young widow living in the Midwest with her two children, one with a debilitating illness. Desperate to leave this life behind, Jean packs her car and, along with her children, travels to the canyon lands of the Southwest, hoping they will strike it rich and join the ranks of "...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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This is a bitter-sweet novel, contrasting upbeat dialogue with Charlie's illness, overshadowed by the effects of uranimum poisoning (which was unknown to the general public at the time).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (222 words).

Media Reviews

The Denver Post - Sybil Downing

Laced with quiet tongue-in-cheek humor and told from multiple viewpoints, the adventures of this cast of quirky characters makes for a warmhearted, entertaining read.

The Boston Globe - Diane White

The sinister, thrilling mushroom cloud of the bomb casts its shadow over everything. ''Lucky Strike" is a quirky novel that rewards careful reading.

Library Journal - Lisa Nussbaum

Starred Review. What a wild ride this book is. The characters are plucky, sympathetic, and memorable, the situations sometimes laugh-out-loud funny and sometimes bittersweet, and the pacing just right. Zafris is a keen observer of the human comedy; highly recommended for all libraries.

Publishers Weekly

In this lovely book, Zafris finds power in the slow, mute strangeness of everyday anxiety, the blossoming of hope in a barren desert and the terrible irony of what uranium means to those who seek it.

Booklist - Joanne Wilkinson

Starred Review. Charlie's debilitating illness and the effects of uranium poisoning (unknown at the time) sit in counterpoint to the loopy banter and endearing cast of characters. Like Marianne Wiggins' quirky, superb Evidence of Things Unseen (2003), this novel is both disturbing and hypnotic.

Reader Reviews

Deborah Kennedy

The best kind of book
It is not often that one finds a book so subtle, compelling and smart as Lucky Strike and its story line is as touching as it is ironic. This book will make you think about the destructive power of the atomic bomb while also making you feel, along ...   Read More

M. Sims

Lucky Strike: A Rare Find
The novel Lucky Strike by Nancy Zafris is gentle, funny, sometimes strange and always thought-provoking. The 50's Utah desert setting is full of both magic and danger. A Mormon uranium prospector (Harry), a bristly widow from Ohio (Jean), her ...   Read More

Giacomo

Lucky Strike Strikes the Heart
A quick look at Zafris' last two books -- Metal Shredders and Lucky Strike -- might cause you to think she is a metallurgist. Instead, she is a first class writer whose characters are lonely and faded but cheerfully hopeful of finding the jackpot or...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Nancy Zafris is the author of two novels, Lucky Strike and The Metal Shredders (2002), and a book of stories, The People I Know (1990).  She says that she was struck with the idea for Lucky Strike after reading a Utah guidebook that talked about the 1950s uranium rush, comparing it to the gold rush a century earlier.  Although the USA government sponsored Uranium Rush is far less well remembered than the Gold Rush, at the time it was big news. Some sources claim that more prospectors scoured the Utah deserts during the mid 1950s than ever invaded California during the rush for gold!

Nancy's currently busy writing a book for her ...

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