Lady Moses: A Novel

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9780060182441: Lady Moses: A Novel

This powerful debut novel is the story of Jacinta Moses, the child of a passionate and courageous love. Her father, Simon Moses, is a black African writer; her mother, Louise, is a white British actress. Together the family carves out a vibrant life in South London filled with people drawn to Simon's powerful stories of the Africa he left behind.

But when Simon Moses died, Jacinta's mother descends into madness, leaving her daughter impoverished and alone, her only real friend an unemployed thespian, Alfred Russell-Smyth. Jacinta longs for a better life, to surround herself with beauty, to run "high and wide and deep." As she grows older, however, prejudice -- her own as well as that of others -- leads her to make adventurous but damaging choices in her life.

In her quest for happiness and security, Jacinta flees to the American South and marries a white man. But when her daughter, Lady, is born with a disability -- ruining her hopes for a picture-perfect life -- Jacinta travels with her baby and husband to Africa to search for answers in her father's homeland. Her experiences there change her forever, for it is in Africa, a land that echoes with her father's stories, that she is forced to draw on her family's great strengths and weave something brilliant out of their history of pain.

Lady Moses  is a novel about being both black and white. But it is less about issues than about passionate characters in extraordinary situations, about how one woman employs her creativity, intelligence and strength to forge an identity. With its unflinching insight and dazzling prose, Lady Moses  marks the entry of a sparkling new voice in African-American fiction.

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Review:

The heroine of Lucinda Roy's debut novel leads a life worthy of As the World Turns. Born in South London to a black African writer and a white English former actress, Jacinta Louise Buttercup Moses enjoys an idyllic childhood that is cut tragically short by her father's death. The ensuing years find Jacinta struggling against crippling poverty, escaping from the loathsome Beadycap twins downstairs, and fighting against her mother's encroaching madness. Maurice Beadycap sexually assaults Jacinta, her mother is institutionalized, she goes to live in a foster home, her best friend gets run over by a bus--all this in the first 100 pages of Lady Moses, in which the plot's potential melodrama is staved off by Roy's keen eye for detail and the strength of Jacinta's quirky, indomitable narrative voice. As an adult, Jacinta falls in love with a weaselly would-be writer named Emmanuel (who was, naturally, abused as a child) and gives birth to a one-armed daughter, sending their marriage into a tailspin from which it never quite recovers. Jacinta keeps her sense of humor, however, and so does Roy, evidenced by the tragicomic scene in which Jacinta gives birth: "When they gave me the epidural I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Nothing from the waist down. Nothing. They could have sawed me in half and I wouldn't have noticed. I told them all they were angels. I told them to come to my house so that we could have baked Alaska and steamed crab. I said they were the kindest, gentlest people in the whole world. I would always be grateful to them. I asked to kiss their feet." Only when the action shifts to Africa does the book lose this charming lightness of touch; as the symbols pile up, the villains become ever more villainous, and the hero--an African named John Turay--makes his almost unbearably heroic entrance. This is a shame, because the lyricism of the novel's closing passages is undercut by the ponderous moralizing that precedes it.

About the Author:

Lucinda Roy is the author of Lady Moses. She is Alumni Distinguished Professor of English at VirginiaTech. In 1995 she won the Eighth Mountain Poetry Prize for her collection of poems, The Humming Birds. She lives in Blacksburg,Virginia.

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Lucinda Roy
Published by Harpercollins (1998)
ISBN 10: 006018244X ISBN 13: 9780060182441
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Roy, Lucinda
Published by Harpercollins (1998)
ISBN 10: 006018244X ISBN 13: 9780060182441
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