Sunday, May 20, 2012
My New American Life: A Novel by Francine Prose
Lula, a twenty-six-year-old Albanian woman living surreptitiously in New York City on an expiring tourist visa, hopes to make a better life for herself in America. When she lands a job caring for a rebellious high schooler in wealthy, suburban New Jersey, it seems that the American dream may finally be within reach. But things take a sinister turn when Lula's Albanian "brothers" show up in a black SUV to remind her that all Albanians are family - and that Lula's family has a very serious favor to ask.
Set in the aftermath of 9/11, My New American Life offers a biting and darkly humorous portrait of an era when dreams and ideals began to give way to cynicism, fear, and still-resonating questions about what it means to be an American.
My New American Life was not as great a read as I had hoped. There was just something lacking throughout it all. The writing was solid enough, but the whole time I just felt like something was missing. Maybe the fact that the characters were stereotypical and began to grate on my nerves didn't help. Or it could have been the ridiculous story lines that went from silly to preposterous in a nano- second that also didn't help. Either way, this was not a good book.
I feel badly writing that I didn't care for the book, but its true - I didn't. However, I have to be honest and admit that in spite of my dislike for the story and characters, the writing itself was rather good. In fact, the writing is what prodded me to keep on reading - I secretly hoped it would somehow rescue the story at some point (sadly, it didn't). I know its weird to say the book was disappointing and then admit I liked the writing, but its true. It was the lackluster story lines that kept me from enjoying My New American Life. I mean, the story would not have progressed had Lula not accepted to watch a gun for some shady characters that rolled up to her house in a black SUV. However, the fact that a woman who was worried about her legal status would even agree to such a task was rather absurd. Then again, this is the same character who found herself attracted to one of these shady guys and enjoying the idea that he might be stalking her. Seriously!?! The whole idea for the book seemed rather farcical in nature, but never really went any deeper than it could have and instead just skated along a superficial surface throughout the entire story. And that is what lacked from the story - depth, meaning, purpose. Without anything to engage with, I found myself plodding along unhappily until the last page.
This is definitely not a book that I will be recommending to my friends or family. However, I don't feel right just labeling it as a bad read. The truth is that I've read some glowing reviews for this book, so there could be something I missed, and with that in mind, here is the link to the TLC Book Tour page for this book. Check it out and read some other posts - who knows, maybe you'll wind up loving My New American Life.