My New American Life , by Francine Prose. Publisher: Harper (April 26, 2011). Literary fiction. Hardcover, 320 pages.
Lula was twenty-six. Old, she thought on dark days. Only twenty-six, on bright ones. She had time, but she had more time if she stayed in this country. She wanted to learn that American trick, staying young till forty. She Some American girls even got better looking. Not like Eastern Europeans, who started off ahead but fell of a cliff and scrambled back up a grandma.
Somehow I’ve never read anything by prolific author Francine Prose. She’s written 18 novels and I’ve been told her book Reading like a Writer offers fantastic advice. Lula, an Albanian immigrant, works as a pseudo-nanny watching a high-school age boy while his father works on Wall Street. Using crisp dialogue, vivid descriptions and biting humor, Prose chronicles Lulu’s struggles with capitalizing on the American dream while simultaneously attempting to keep some Albanian thugs from ruining everything.
Lula is a scrappy, astute character. While her job is cushy, she’s smart and realizes it will end soon and she’s calculating a way to gain citizenship and remain in the United States. Lulu writes stories that both her boss and attorney both find charming—old world tales of Soviet Bloc Albania and its backward ways. Lulu’s a magnificent liar and whether that gets her into trouble or not remains a major theme throughout the novel. My New American Life cleverly satirizes immigration and the American dream.