13 March 2011

Minding Ben; Victoria Brown

Minding BenMinding Ben by Victoria Brown
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Because this was sent in the 1980s, it has a historical feel to it - but it's unclear to me why it was set then and not now. There are glancing references to those times (the World Trade Center is still standing, the riots in Crown Heights are starting) but nothing that really influences the action.

Grace is a 17-year-old Trinidadian who has come to the US to be the nanny for her cousin, only her cousin doesn't want or need her. After shuffling around a little, she finds herself living with another cousin, Sylvia, taking care of Sylvia's three children for no pay. Clearly that's not going to work for long, so Grace continues to look for real nanny positions and finally finds one in Manhattan. Sol and Miriam need help with Benjamin, their toddler; Miriam also needs someone to do all the housework and shopping and generally to be completely on call. Putting up with the indignity Miriam's demands should end in the payoff of being sponsored, Grace thinks, so she does it, despite missing home and her father (ill from what is hinted at being diabetes). Of course, it doesn't last and by the end of the book she's lost her job, Kath has returned home, and Sylvia's been moved out of her house while lead abatement is going on.

The problem for me is that the characters here are all so stereotypically depicted that it was hard for me to really believe in them. Grace was the exception, but since everyone she interacted with and every event seemed so cliched, it was difficult for me to enjoy the book.

ARC provided by publisher.

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