(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Lucy tells about a year in the life of a nineteen-year-old girl from the Caribbean who has just arrived in the United States. When the novel opens, Lucy is experiencing the shock of adapting to a new culture. Even the weather is deceiving: Although the January sun is shining, Lucy shivers in her thin clothing. She likes her new employers, Mariah and Lewis, and their children, for whom she cares, but she is somewhat homesick. This emotion confuses her because she was so eager to leave her home and begin a new life.

Interspersed with the day-to-day happenings of her life are her memories of home, which revolve around her sexual awakening and her love-hate relationship with her mother. Mariah wants Lucy to see the world through her eyes and love the things that she loves. For example, Mariah loves daffodils and tells Lucy all about them. Mariah’s words trigger in Lucy the unhappy memory of being forced to memorize poetry about daffodils at the Queen Victoria School for Girls when she was ten years old. Her anger about daffodils is explained when she finally sees a daffodil and remarks that she had to wait nine years to see a flower that never grew on her island but that she was forced to revere under British rule.

Mariah, although well-meaning, often upsets Lucy by her attitude toward life. Lucy cannot understand how Mariah can be always cheerful and always kindhearted but also always blind to the injustices done to people of color. During a train ride planned by Mariah for the sole purpose of providing a new experience for Lucy, Lucy notices that the other passengers all look like Mariah’s relatives and the waiters all look like Lucy’s relatives.

Lucy eventually makes friends with Peggy, with whom she has little in common except their thirst for shared experiences. Peggy and Lucy spend their free time together and talk...

(The entire section is 763 words.)