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"My New American Life" by Francine Prose - a review

Newamerican Lula, the 26-year-old Albanian immigrant dutifully assimilating in Francine Prose’s droll new novel, is fairly clear on what being American means to her.

You get your own bathroom (“How quickly she’d switched from making do with a filthy communal apartment-block latrine to needing her middle-class personal space”). You can reframe your past in intriguing ways (perhaps by implying that your father died a heroic freedom fighter in Kosovo instead of in a car accident while crossing the border in hopes of unloading some tribal muskets). You benefit from the unfamiliar phenomenon known as the “win-win situation” (“The Balkans had no expression for ‘win-win situation.’ In the Balkans they said, No problem, and the translation was, You’re f-----”).

My New American Life is — happily — vintage Prose: cheerfully pessimistic, smart, funny, with characters unnervingly spot-on in their stages of outrage, denial, malaise or disillusionment. After her last novel — the lovely, poignant Goldengrove, about a teenage girl coping with her older sister’s sudden death — Prose has come roaring back to the world of satire, where she is supremely at home. She is welcome here anytime. The author of such brilliant works as the National Book Award finalist Blue Angel, which skewered the pretensions of academia, Prose manages a fabulously cynical world view that never entirely abandons hope or compassion for human flaws, whether the people flaunting them are Lexus-driving criminals, mopey corporate souls who long for more honest work or vampire-obsessed teenagers who wear too much black.

Click here to read the rest of my review.

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