Friday, June 6, 2014

Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid

Remember being nineteen?

Still technically a teenager, but deemed an adult. Trying desperately to forge an identity as far away from the familiar as possible, being nineteen has it's hopes and promises as well as its fears and dreams.

Time can stand still, reaching back into history and forward into possibility, every young lady at nineteen is left with questions that demand answers.

Such is the protagonist, Lucy, in the namesake work by Jamaica Kincaid.

Does one follow the expected next-step after secondary school? Become a nurse? Go to college? Work? What is that next thing?

Jamaica Kincaid Lucy
This tender story is an invitation from Lucy to travel with her from her West Indian homeland, while unnamed in her works, one can surmise it is Antigua, the homeland of Jamaica Kincaid. Lucy invites the reader to reach back, for those over that age, or to imagine, for those not that age, what being nineteen can entail. The quest for independence, away from the known expectations of mother and the wonders of young adult friendships, takes Lucy to New York, as a nanny, and allows her to see a world she can only imagine.

Meeting the timeless questions that all women experience, Jamaica invites the reader to ask the hard question of what do I really want to do? Am I brave enough to travel half a world away and still walk away from convention to forge my own path? This work felt so personal, autobiographical in so many ways, and an invitation in others. Remember being stubborn in that quest to be apart from everyone one knows, only to realize that everything one knows will always be a part of growing into adulthood.

The story is timeless, it came as a surprise the birthdate of Lucy, this story is a treasure and should be on the same shelf as Annie John, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Browngirl, Brownstones, and The Secret Life of Bees.  It is welcoming, tender, thoughtful, and expertly rendered. Jamaica Kincaid stretches her readers with her lingering prose and winding sentences, painting the imagination with just the right thought to make Lucy a sympathetic character, even as some of her actions may seem thoughtless.

This book is suggested for the high school senior as well as the adult women.  A fifty-year-old writer can go back and remember being nineteen and appreciate that Jamaica said all the things she wished were told her.



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