TLC Presents: My New American Life Review and Giveaway

My New American Life by Francine Prose

Release date: 2011 / 320 pages

Synopsis(from Amazon): 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 as caretaker to Zeke, a rebellious high school senior in suburban New Jersey, it seems that the security, comfort, and happiness of the American dream may finally be within reach. Her new boss, Mister Stanley, an idealistic college professor turned Wall Street executive, assumes that Lula is a destitute refugee of the Balkan wars. He enlists his childhood friend Don Settebello, a hotshot lawyer who prides himself on defending political underdogs, to straighten out Lula’s legal situation. In true American fashion, everyone gets what he wants and feels good about it… [until] things take a more sinister turn when Lula’s Albanian “brothers” show up in a brand-new black Lexus SUV.

My New American Life.jpgThis is the third book I’ve read in the past month that has addressed immigration — this trend is completely accidental, but also serendipitous since I now live near a Sanctuary City and have become fascinated by the complexities of this topic.

I must admit, this novel was a “slow starter” for me, but I received it just last week so I had no choice but to stick with it right away.  I have little knowledge of Albania — where Lula, the protagonist, was born — and Prose’s writing felt a bit stilted — intentionally, I believe, since Lula’s first language was not English.

However, within 50 or so pages, I found myself drawn to her story and the strange events that were unfolding.  I was in the same position as her employer and his son — who also knew little about Lula’s home — so her stories, albeit outrageous at times, were received in the same spirit by all of the hapless Americans in her orbit — including this reader!  After I finished the novel, I read the “Behind the Book” resource included at the end and learned the author traveled to Albania and even had dinner with Albanian political criminals as research.  So, although the stories seemed extreme at times, I can’t help but wonder if Lula’s stories were not so outlandish after all.

This novel was inspired by a story the author heard about a young woman who was taught to drive by Albanian gangsters who drove her to the George Washington bridge, turned the wheel over to her, and insisted she drive.  This is where this novel ends, with Lula somehow finding the courage and wherewithal to create a new life in her new country.

Prose is masterful at creating atmosphere — the stultifying setting of Mister Stanley and Zeke’s home after Ginger, the woman of the house, abandoned them on Christmas Eve is palpable and the perfect backdrop for Lula’s imaginative stories and strange visitors.  And even though Prose leaves a few loose ends (how did the trio of Albanian thugs find Lula in the first place? Why did Savitra suddenly get married? Most of Dunia’s entire life in the U.S…), her take on American life and ability to create compelling characters is worth the ride.

Here are a few of her observations that I found particularly enjoyable:

“She’d seen the guys on Fox News calling for every immigrant except German supermodels and Japanese baseball players to be deported, no questions asked.”

“Mostly, in her experience, country was like religion, an excuse to hate other people and feel righteous about it.”

Interested in winning a copy?  Simply leave me a comment below and I will choose a winner shortly!

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Thursday, May 17th: Bookstack

Monday, May 21st: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, May 24th: My Bookshelf

Monday, May 28th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Tuesday, May 29th: Books and Movies

Wednesday, May 30th: Veronica M.D.

Tuesday, June 5th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog

Wednesday, June 6th: Reviews By Lola

Thursday, June 7th: I Read. Do you?

Tuesday, June 12th: Chocolate & Croissants

Thursday, June 14th: Literate Housewife

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16 Responses to TLC Presents: My New American Life Review and Giveaway

  1. Diane says:

    This sounds like a interesting story. Would love to read this book.
    Enjoyed your review on it. Thank you

  2. Twisty J says:

    I usually enjoy Francine Prose’s work, but I have to admit I was on the fence with this one. It was a different kind of concept and topic for her, but I know I will be checking it out at some point. Thanks for your thoughts and a chance at winning a copy!

  3. Christy says:

    Immigration is an interesting topic and I would like to read more about it

  4. Margie says:

    Interesting review. Thanks for the giveaway.

  5. Ellie says:

    Thanks for this interesting book feature.

  6. Pearl says:

    I am intrigued with this novel. Many thanks.

  7. Heather says:

    Just read the whole free sample on Amazon after I read your review. I liked it! Good review, I sure like hearing about these books that I would have never known about!

  8. Cynthia ☮ ❤ ❀ says:

    I enjoyed reading your review…this subject seems to be a hot one right now. As always, would love to win a copy!

  9. Wendy says:

    This is certainly a relevant read. Please enter me in the Giveaway!
    Thank you!

  10. Pingback: Francine Prose, author of My New American Life, on tour May 2012 | TLC Book Tours

  11. I’m glad you stuck with it since it sounds like this one really got interesting. I love the behind the scenes info you mentioned too – crazy!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  12. Steve Vetter says:

    Sounds like a great book

  13. Debbie says:

    Our book group is always looking for “social issue” books to discuss. This sounds like a winner.

  14. Pingback: TLC Book Tours: My New American Life « ReviewsbyLola's Blog

  15. Pingback: My New American Life – Francine Prose « Iwriteinbooks's Blog

  16. Pingback: #433 ~ My New American Life

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