In her latest offering to the fiction-reading public, the prolific Francine Prose has embarked on a daring project: to center a novel on a protagonist from a remote culture—ex-Communist Albania—about which the author knows very little. My New American Life describes a series of episodes experienced by a character whose personality and surroundings, both past and present, seem deliberately ill-defined and disjointed.

The principal figure of the novel, Lula, is a twenty-six-year-old Albanian immigrant woman who once served as an illegally employed waitress in a Manhattan establishment specializing in mojitos, a Caribbean drink made with rum and mint leaves. At the novel’s outset, she has moved to the invented suburb of Baywater in northern New Jersey, to work as an au pair, overseeing the home life of Ezekiel...


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