This novel is short, only 160 pages or so, and I devoured every word so fast that when I finished I needed to take a step back and digest. The premise is relatively simple but Jamaica Kincaid is such a vivid story teller that gradually all the layers of the story peel away an you’re reading to reveal a complex web of emotions.
Lucy is a 19-year old immigrant to America from the West Indies working as an au pair to a couple, Mariah and Lewis, and their four daughters. The story is told from Lucy’s point of view and throughout the novel you begin to understand her, her relationship to her employer Mariah and how she straddles the line between friend and employee, as well as her unresolved feelings towards her mother, who acts as a shadow on Lucy’s life throughout the novel. Despite only being 19, Lucy is cynical and mature beyond her years as she struggles to make friends in her new surroundings and watches the marriage of her employers deteriorate.
It’s a very introspective read, but also very compelling. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read any of Kincaid’s other works but after reading Lucy, I’m definitely going to start.
This was one of the most unique, well written, and well flowing books I’ve read. Not to mention, Yunior, is probably the most fascinating narrator that you’ll ever meet. The novel follows Oscar De Leon, an overweight Dominican teenager growing up in New Jersey who is obsessed with science fiction and fantasy.
The novel opens with an explanation of fukú – “a curse or a doom of some kind: specifically the curse and the doom of the new world.” And the zafa – a counter spell of the fukú. The story then alternates between the story of Oscar and his search for love, and the lives of various members of his family including his rebellious sister Lola, and his mother’s life living in the Dominican Republic under Trujillo. Later the narrator Yunior, reveals himself to be Oscar’s roommate and Lola’s boyfriend.
The story is a non-traditional one, but still contains all the elements of a classic coming-of-age story. It is heartbreaking but also magical making heavy use of references to popular culture due to Oscar’s obsessions with things like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. The insights and history of life under Trujillo’s regime are painful and honest. The book just flowed with such a rhythm that it was almost impossible to put down.