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My New American Life: A Novel Hardcover – April 26, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (April 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061713767
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061713767
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.7 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,110,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The story of a good-hearted immigrant doubles as a snapshot of America during Bush II's second term in Prose's uneven latest. Lula is a 26-year-old Albanian working an undemanding au pair gig in New Jersey. Her employer, Stanley, is a forlorn Wall Street exec recently abandoned by his mentally disturbed wife. He asks only that Lula see to the simple needs of his son, Zeke, a disaffected high school senior. Soon, Stanley and one of his friends, a high-profile immigration lawyer, are taken with the tale-telling, mildly exotic Lula (who speaks English flawlessly) and get to work on securing her citizenship. Lula's gig is cushy if dull, a condition relieved when three Albanian criminals, led by the charming Alvo, arrive at Stanley's house with a quiet demand that Lula harbor a (Chekhovian) gun for them. Prose seeks to show America through the fresh eyes of an outsider with a deeply ingrained, comic pessimism born of life under dictatorship, yet also capable of exuberant optimism, and the results, like Lula, are agreeable enough but not terribly profound. (May)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Whenever Lula feels pressure from Don, her heroic immigration lawyer; or Mister Stanley, her melancholy employer; or Zeke, his moody teenage son; she offers a wry observation about how brutal life is in her native Albania to ensure their sympathy. She also needs to remind herself to be grateful for living legally in the U.S., in spite of how lonely and bored she is working as a nanny in New Jersey. Lula doesn�t do much, since Zeke is old enough to be applying to college, but his father doesn�t want him home alone after his imbalanced mother�s abrupt disappearance. Between trips to Guant�namo, Don encourages Lula to write a memoir titled My New American Life, a clever setup that allows Prose great freedom in crafting Lula�s comically ironic and heartbreakingly guileless voice. In deftly choreographed scenes of caustic hilarity, from awkward meals to fumbled romance, Prose articulates both Lula�s hopefulness and homesickness as she contends with Mister Stanley and Zeke�s despair, Don�s righteous indignation, and the frightening demands of three Albanian guys who show up in a black Lexus SUV. Prose is dazzling in her sixteenth book of spiky fiction, a fast-flowing, bittersweet, brilliantly satirical immigrant story that subtly embodies the cultural complexity and political horrors of the Balkans and Bush-Cheney America. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Best-selling Prose continues to ascend in popularity and acclaim, having just been honored with the prestigious Washington University International Humanities Medal. --Donna Seaman

More About the Author

Francine Prose is the author of sixteen books of fiction. Her novel A Changed Man won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Blue Angel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent works of nonfiction include the highly acclaimed Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. A former president of PEN American Center, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Francine Prose lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Likeable, if flawed, characters.
betc2
That did not happen, as the ending, like the rest of the book is not believable and left me cold.
Talia Carner
It is a very funny book, and great fun to read.
Charlotte Pen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Temporarily submerged by our economic woes, the debate over immigration policy simmers just below the surface of American political and social life. In her lighthearted, consistently engaging new novel, Francine Prose tells the story of Lula, a savvy 26-year-old Albanian newcomer trying to gain a foothold in a country that at times seems as strange as her bizarre native land.

It's October 2005, a low point of the Bush presidency, with others as yet unimagined, ahead. Half-Muslim, half-Christian Lula has just secured her work permit, a glimpse of her green card glittering on the horizon. She's situated uneasily in a sterile New Jersey McMansion 10 miles from Manhattan. Its owner, Stanley Larch ("Mister Stanley" to Lula), is a former economics professor turned disgruntled Wall Street banker. He's hired her to keep an eye on Zeke, his sullen, vampire-obsessed teenage son whose taste in attire runs to black and body piercings. Their wife and mother, Ginger, abandoned the family for the Norwegian fjords ("she wanted to start over, somewhere clean and white") the previous Christmas Eve, suffering from something her husband vaguely describes as "mental health issues." Hearing what sounds like sobbing from Mister Stanley's room one night, she wonders, "Who wouldn't cry? No wife, no fun, no girlfriends, a job he hated, a son who seemed to despise him."

Out of boredom, Lula turns to writing stories based on Albanian folk legends she reshapes into magical realist-inflected tales about her family's life that Mister Stanley naively believes demonstrate real literary talent. But Lula's quotidian existence is disrupted when three young Albanian men she nicknames the "Cute One," "Hoodie" and "Leather Jacket," appear at the Larch residence in a black Lexus SUV.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Diane VINE VOICE on May 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
My New American Life is whip-smart funny. Satire is not always easy to pull off on the written page , and Prose does it amazingly well. Her writing, especially of Lula's thoughts, had me cracking up, like this one:
"Lula knew that some Americans cheered every time INS agents raided factories and shoved dark little chicken-packagers into the backs of trucks. 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."

Lula wants desperately to grab a hold of the American dream, but her job as a nanny to an 17-year-old young man leaves her bored and stuck in the suburbs with no friends and nothing to do. Prose makes you feel her stifling suffocation. When the wanna-be Sopranos Albanians show up and ask her to "hold on to" a gun for them, Lula does as she's asked, even though she knows this could lead to trouble for her and her employer and her deportation. Yet, strangely, she cannot say no to them; and besides, it's a little excitement.

I usually identify with at least one of the characters in a novel that I read, but I could not identify with anyone in this book, yet that did not stop me from enjoying it. I live in New York City, a city that runs because of its immigrant population, and this book gave me a new perspective on the people who leave their families behind to start a new life elsewhere.

Lula misses her homeland; she cries
"for her once-beautiful homeland now in the hands of toxic dumpers and sex traffickers and money launderers. She cried for missing her country, for not missing it, for having nothing to miss. She cried for the loneliness and uncertainty of her life among strangers who could still change her mind and make her go home.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Kopp on July 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I really tried to like this book. I really tried to care about the characters. Unfortunately, this story of an newcomer's view of American life offered few new insights to me and just wasn't very engaging. The American father and his slacker son were two dimensional and trite. The details about Albania were the only interesting elements of the book. The parts about Lula's love life and her agonizing about her crush on the bad boy were beyond dull. Perhaps I was just the wrong audience for this book. I really expected more but was very disappointed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Julia Spiegelman on November 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I was looking forward to an intelligent, thoughtful novel and was disappointed to find the opposite. While it was an easy read, and I did finish it (though tempted several times to stop mid-way), I found the main character particularly superficial and dense, in a way that is not reflected as ironic or even intentional by the narrative. Lula continues to lie and learns nothing, and continues unapologetically and selfishly into her future. Even moments that could be truly emotionally charged are not; the story is told flatly, with little indication that its characters are more than cardboard cutouts. If this is intended to be satire, or irony, it is poorly pulled off.

I was also disturbed by some vaguely homophobic comments throughout the book, such as Lula's unchallenged assumption that 20 years in prison would turn a defendant gay. While I did enjoy the glimpse into Lula's world, and the difficulty of her position as a young, not-yet-greencarded Albanian woman, I did not find that the book brought me to any understanding beyond stereotype. Very disappointing.
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