My New American Life

My New American Life

by Francine Prose

Arlene Almas (12/31/11): You will never read a funnier book about Albanian immigrants than "My New American Life." Lula, a 26-year-old from Albania who speaks excellent English, has been waitressing at a fancy bar frequented by young Wall Street types and sharing a one-bedroom apartment on the Lower East Side with her fellow-Albanian friend Dunia and two other young women. She's worried about her visa status, which is about to expire, and when Dunia disappears with no explanation, Lula assumes that her friend has been deported and fears she will experience the same fate. In order to leave the Manhattan area where she thinks the INS may be looking for her, she answers an ad on Craigslist for someone to supervise a teenage boy whose divorced father works long hours. Although she's concerned that this might be a scam to kidnap young women for the sex trade, when she meets the father she realizes that he is honest; she's offered the job and accepts it, moving to New Jersey (where she feels more secure) to live with nebbishy "Mr. Stanley" and serving as a companion to his sarcastic son Zeke. Then we're off on a deliciously funny ride as Lula develops a good relationship with Zeke, is introduced to a legendary immigration lawyer who can help her, and falls in with three Albanian men (one of whom is very cute) who have an agenda of their own. Lula is a sweetheart with a strong practical streak - I enjoyed her company, and I loved her story.
Rating: *****

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