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Minding Ben Hardcover – April 12, 2011

3.9 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in the lead-up to the racially turbulent summer of 1991 and Brooklyn's Crown Heights riots, this troubling and touching novel chronicles 18-year-old Grace's move from Trinidad to New York City in search of work and new opportunities, but her Sunday-through-Friday life as a live-in nanny is all the more stark when set against her weekends with a dirt-poor family that needs her just as surely as her demanding employers. Cinderella's wicked step-family have nothing on married-into-money Miriam, who runs Grace ragged with selfish demands, or haggard, penny-pinching Sylvia, stuck in a wretched apartment back in Brooklyn with three kids and unemployed baby-daddy Bo. Everyone shares desperation: Grace for a green card, Sylvia for a future, Miriam for acceptance. The language of the Caribbean sings through the pages, and if the adults misbehave and mismanage their lives, your heart breaks for the kids—Miriam's son, Ben, and the other Manhattan kids watched over by hired help who have their own codes of behavior in the parks and playgrounds. A too-tidy ending wraps it all up with a bow of hope, but the striving and sadness that precedes it is what sticks. (Apr.)
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Review

"[A] troubling and touching novel." ---Publishers Weekly --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Voice (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401341519
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401341510
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,496,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E.M. Bristol VINE VOICE on March 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
So says the protagonist of Victoria Brown's first novel "Minding Ben," an expose (of sorts) of the world of New York nannies. The heroine, Grace, arrives in America from Trinidad at age 16, has her plans for a job and home upturned, and eventually, is forced to take a job as a nanny. "Everyone reads in the interviews," her employer-to-be Miriam Bruckner tells her, handing Grace a book, since apparently Grace's predecessor couldn't. Also the predecessor apparently took the child on public transportation (if you can imagine), and there's something murky in the way no one will give Grace the complete story. From there, things only get more uncomfortable, if not downright humiliating at times, but Grace, who needs a green card to stay, does finally find a way to escape.

In books where the progatonist is a young native American who's being exploited in a first job, a typical problem is that he/she has a love interest who wants more commitment and that they have student loans. Here, the narrator stays part time with a family, who lives in a dilapidated apartment with lead paint that may be causing the toddler's brain damage. Not to mention that she can't even get a few nights off a week to further her education. So while both these characters have valid problems, "Minding Ben" is a much darker "Nanny Diaries" or "The Devil Wears Prada." It can be hard to watch any protagonist suffer abuse and exploitation, but when the character literally doesn't have a choice in the matter, it's even more heart-wrenching.

Two random things I admired. One, even though Grace is described as incredibly attractive several times in the book, the reader isn't beat over the head with it every few pages, the way so many writers do when they've fallen for their gorgeous protagonist.
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Wow. Don't let the unassuming title and cover fool you. Minding Ben is a painfully honest tale, far more unflinching and complex in its treatment of immigration, race and poverty than the usual Hollywood-ready fare, but it's also frequently whimsical and laugh-out-loud funny, thanks to the refreshingly strong and self-aware characters at the heart of the story. From a dawn scene in the front yard of the narrator's house in Trinidad; to the backseat of a car parked outside a reggae club; to a playground where West Indian, East Indian, and Irish domestic workers mind their charges and negotiate subtle and intricate power relationships; to the heartbreakingly personal center of a race riot in Crown Heights; to an understatedly magical rooftop garden in downtown New York where time seems to stand still and anything feels possible; Brown pulls the reader into a mesmerizing world of carefully fleshed-out characters, several of whom you'll find yourself caring about and empathizing with even if, had you met them in the real world, you would be tempted to avoid and take sides against them. As an added bonus, a vibrant use of assorted distinct patois and the narrator's wry, first-person account make many sections enjoyable to read aloud. This is a deeply satisfying, rewarding novel that is worth re-reading and sharing.
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Format: Hardcover
Article first published as Book Reviewa: Minding Ben by Victoria Brown on Blogcritics.

Known as the land of opportunities, America is a place where many different people come together under common ground. Throughout history, immigrants have made their way to this country and a new way of life in an effort to live their dreams.

In Minding Ben by Victoria Brown, we follow the life of Grace Canton. She is a young woman from a very small village in Trinidad, who has chosen to immigrate in order to reach that golden ring. Leaving her home and making her way to New York is a difficult task. Her mother does not want her to leave but her father wants to live her dream. The pressure is uncomfortable, but the trip is on. She is to meet a relative when she reaches the states, one who can give her a place to live until she can find a job and set up a new home.

However not everything happens the way they are supposed to. Her relative does not show, leaving Grace on her own in a city larger than she ever imagined possible, and a place she has never been. Finding a home with Sylvia, another expatriate of Trinidad she meets, performing small chores and watching her children, for a place to stay, Grace continues to look for that job, the one that will allow her to become a citizen.

Finding what she expects is the perfect job, minding their son Ben; Grace accepts the job with a wealthy family, the Bruckner's. Maintaining her relationship with Sylvia, living at her home when not at the new live-in job, she continues to do chores and watch Sylvia's brood when she is able. Is this really her dream, her opportunity to become a citizen, and make a living wage?

Grace is a young naive woman from another country; she is open and optimistic, and easy to take advantage of.
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"Minding Ben" by Vitoria Brown takes you on a journey with Grace from the Caribbean Island to Brooklyn, NY. Grace leaves her family behind to find a better life in Brooklyn NY. What she finds is the world of nannies. "Minding Ben" is slow moving and at times when I thought it was going to pick up and get interesting it did not. I also felt the ending was rushed and predictable.
I did like the character Grace. I felt she had spunk and potential.
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