Monday, May 28, 2012

Things That Make Me Go Meh

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Lula, a 26-year-old immigrant, is living the American dream.  At least, she thinks she is.  She's not sure.  All she knows is that her new life in the U.S. beats her old one in Albania any day.  In fact, Lula's got a lot to be grateful for: she lives in a wealthy New Jersey suburb; she earns money by looking after a 16-year-old boy who really doesn't need a babysitter; and thanks to her employer, the kind Mister Stanley, she's now legally able to stay in the country.  She really can't complain about it all, even if her new American life is a little bit dull.

That all changes when three Albanian men come knocking, asking Lula to do her "brothers" a dangerous favor.  Lula knows she shouldn't oblige them, but she's been waiting for a little excitement and here it is.  Plus, there's Alvo.  He's good-looking and seems as interested in Lula as she is in him.  So what if he runs with a sketchy crowd?  She wanted a thrill—now she's getting one.  But, as things get complicated not just with her new "brothers," but also with Mr. Stanley's family, Lula must decide where her loyalties really lie.  What does she owe her countrymen?  Her employer?  Herself?  Who is she and what does being an American really mean?  

The ho-hum plot summary above reflects my disappointment in Francine Prose's latest novel, My New American Life.  As you can probably tell, it's not big on plot.  Which wouldn't have been a huge problem if the author had managed to make me care about the characters in the story.  Didn't happen.  Why not?  Well, none of them are particularly likable, least of all our heroine.  Lula lies to the people who have been kindest to her, disregards all of her employer's rules, and selfishly puts an already hurting family in jeopardy to satisfy her own lustful urges.  Annoying.  The rest of the cast irritated me, as did the story itself, which just got duller and more depressing as it prattles onward.  Without an interesting plot or engaging characters, this book just kind of goes nowhere.  It's not that Prose doesn't write well—she does—it's just that I didn't connect with My New American Life at all.  If I hadn't promised to review it, I wouldn't have bothered to finish it.      

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't really think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:  C

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for strong language, depictions of underrage drinking and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of My New American Life from the generous folks at Harper Collins and TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!  

3 comments:

  1. I hate when I can't connect nor like any of the characters in a book. When books are this frustrating I cant help but wonder just what the author was trying to get at. Sorry it was a disappointment for you. :(

    ReplyDelete
  2. Darn, I'm sorry this one wasn't a good fit for you, but thanks for being on the tour.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I felt the same way about this one. I thought it was well-written - and I love her non-fiction book, Reading Like a Writer - but didn't like the story or characters. If you want a book about immigration with characters that I loved, you should try Anne Tyler's Digging to America. Not hugely plot-based, definitely character driven, but I loved the characters and the way she described the immigrant experience.

    ReplyDelete

Comments make me feel special, so go crazy! Just keep it clean and civil. Feel free to speak your mind (I always do), but be aware that I will delete any offensive comments.

P.S.: Don't panic if your comment doesn't show up right away. I have to approve each one before it posts to prevent spam. It's annoying, but it works!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin