Opening sentence: “It was Aunt Celia who got us into the whole mess.”
Welcome to my stop on the One Year of Ugly blog tour! Let me tell you, this little cracker of a book was the refreshing, funny, poignant and educational story that I didn’t know I needed in my life right now.
I loved every second of 24-year old Yola Palacios and her family’s crazy life. Originally from Venezuela, the family ( Yola plus her mum, dad, brother, sister, aunts, uncle and cousins) are forced to emigrate to Trinidad to escape the awful living conditions of their homeland. This is the first novel I’ve read that has refugees as its lead characters, so straight away that made it really eye-opening for me (and made me realise I need to look to expand the themes in the novels I read).
Our immigrant story is as classic and unchanging as any Hans Christian Anderson fairytale – the tale of the illegal refugees who risked it all to live like cockroaches.
Settled into their new life in Trinidad, the Palacios family’s world is blown apart by the arrival of an extravagantly dressed gangster named Ugly… He informs them that their recently deceased Aunt Celia owes him a lot of money, and he has now come to claim it from her family. They have no choice but to do as he says due to their precarious illegal status in Trinidad and the fact that he has a gun.
Maybe the grass here was greener, just fertilized with an equally pungent brand of horseshit.
Now, this might not sound like the backdrop for either a highly-charged romance sub-plot or a an overall tone that’s actually very dry and funny to read, but that is what Caroline Mackenzie does so well here. She perfectly balances serious issues with an emotive, entertaining writing style that really makes you care for Yola – about her blossoming romance, her aspirations to be a writer and her family’s survival. Plus her snappy, witty take on things is a delight to read.
Is One Year of Ugly based on real events?
The characters are fictional but their situation is not. Venezuela has a very high emigration rate – legally and illegally – due to its political turmoil (read all about that here). I didn’t know anything about what was happening there or the desperate conditions for the people of Venezuela, this book completely educated me on that.
One Year of Ugly is a great story about family loyalty and opened my eyes to a new culture and way of life. It’s packed full of dark humour, it raises important issues and completely hooks you in with its fast-paced story. A pretty impressive trio of attributes, wouldn’t you agree?
- Thank you Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inclusion in this fab tour;
- Snap up your copy here;
- Published by The Borough Press 23rd July 2020;
- 378 pages
- My rating:
About the Author:
Caroline Mackenzie (@carolinemackenziewrites) is a freelance translator living in Trinidad with her husband and son. A national scholar, she studied in the UK on an Open Scholarship for four years to qualify as a specialist translator before returning to her native Trinidad, where she began writing more extensively.
Her short fiction has appeared in literary publications around the world, and in 2017 she was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. In 2018 she was named the Short Fiction winner of the Small Axe Literary Competition. One Year of Ugly is her first novel, and the TV rights have already been snapped up by Netflix.