Fortunes rise and fall. One day you have a lucky ticket and get a dinner so good and you eat so much that you think you’ll never need to eat again. You get busy making plans and then the hunger comes looking for you.I’m just an old man selling lucky tickets, but my theory is that we all get our turn in the end. I’ve had my turn at fortune. It was some years ago, maybe 2002, because I remember that was when Sài Gòn was less red and bright with fried chicken signs everywhere.
A highly original collection of stories by a talented young writer. In the comic-tragic eponymous story, ‘Lucky Ticket’, the narrator, a genial, disabled old man, whose spirit is far from crushed, sells lottery tickets on a street corner in bustling Saigon. In ‘Mekong Love’, two young people in a restrictive society try to find a way to consummate their relationship—in an extraordinary tropical landscape.
In ‘Abu Dhabi Gently’, a story of dreams and disappointment, of camaraderie and disillusionment, a migrant worker leaves Zanzibar to earn money in the UAE in order to be able to marry his fiancée. ‘White Washed’ depicts a strained friendship between two students in Melbourne, the Vietnamese narrator and a white girl. What does it mean to be Asian? What does it mean to be white? And what makes up identity?
In Lucky Ticket, Joey Bui introduces a diverse range of characters, all with distinctive voices, and makes us think differently about identity, mixed-race relationships, difficulties between family generations, war and dislocation.
‘After reading this devastatingly great collection – imbued with equal parts pain and humour, suffering and the sublime – I want to recommend it to not just my Vietnamese or Asian-Australian friends, but anyone who reads.’
‘An exciting, profound and often funny dive into the minor cataclysms of everyday life. Joey Bui is a marvel.’
‘Filled with distinctive characters and full of surprises, these stories are enlightening and unforgettable.’
Joey Bui is a masterful storyteller. The stories in Lucky Ticket are so diverse in setting and voice, it’s hard to believe they were all written by the same person. Each tale is delightfully rich with detail and yet reverberates with a broader truth. When the book finished, I was sad to leave its pages but heartened to know that such a collection exists in the world. These unforgettable characters and stories will keep me company for a gloriously long time.
‘Wry yet affecting…the scatological nature of the stories and the ways in which they delve into the indignity of poverty call to mind Jenny Zhang, while the astute racial, gender and class commentary would appeal to readers of Julie Koh, Melanie Cheng and Rosanna Gonsalves.’
‘Bui’s sentences range over people and land battered by war and movement. They tell you how and why people long and love like wild things. They tell you hustlers bide their time, dreamers too. Importantly, they tell you Bui’s got game.’
‘Fanfare will herald this debut by a thrilling new writer—and rightly so. These stories are finely crafted, Bui’s light touch revealing both confidence and a keen sense for the right measure of mystery. Her characters inhabit margins and she takes readers deep into lives that are exquisitely unique, yet startlingly universal. Perhaps the most exciting story here is that of Joey Bui’s bright career ahead. What a start! So now let there be fireworks, and let her render them for us in her inimitable way.’
‘A feast of stories—deliciously varied, speaking true, speaking fierce, from every margin, about what it means to be a part of life.’
‘Joey Bui writes with a rare emotional acuity. Although her characters inhabit very different lives, her stories are linked by a searching quality, and by the assured clarity of her prose. Lucky Ticket is meticulously observed and distinctly contemporary.’
‘Joey Bui’s debut collection is polished, wide-ranging, and absolutely has the capacity to transport the reader…the prose is juicy, polyphonic and refreshing…Bui is an incredibly talented young writer, and we should all be taking note of her name.’
‘The sophistication with which Bui explores the intersections of race, gender and politics belies her youth. In terms of its global reach and the insights into the heads and hearts of its protagonists, the collection recalls the short fiction of Melanie Cheng’s Australia Day and Nam Le’s The Boat…This is a writer who is both steady and nimble-footed in her ambitions.’
‘There is an astonishing range and fearlessness evident in this collection…alongside writing of great beauty and lyricism.’
‘A strange and spellbinding collection of short stories with question-mark conclusions, presenting glimpses into the ordinary and extraordinary lives of migrants…Lucky Ticket is a tender, sophisticated collections of worlds, from the bucolic to the metropolitan, from life-shaking events to everyday minutiae.’
‘The wonder of this book is that someone so young could inhabit so many points of view and bring them all to life.’
‘A brave and haunting debut collection…In erudite stories of the displaced and dislocated, Bui’s characters are glistering survivors [and] a testament to the deft way she crafts dialogue…Bui’s narratives are profound and unforgettable’.
‘The kind of short fiction that most excites me. The stories here take place in various corners of the globe, featuring protagonists from all kinds of backgrounds. Look out for this book on next year’s literary prize shortlists.’
‘An astonishing debut…funny and sad and thoughtful, with some beautifully drawn characters and subtle experimentation, both on an individual story level and as a curated collection.’
‘Stories from some of the most interesting narrators you’ll read this year.’
‘Bui’s stores are engaging as they showcase the real difficulties displaced people often face in foreign spaces, and how they affect her characters’ relationships and perspectives in both positive and negative ways.’