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The Autobiography of My Mother

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The Autobiography of My Mother

Current Status:
In Season
Jamaica Kincaid
Farrar, Straus & Giroux

We gave it a B-

Jamaica Kincaid’s The Autobiography of My Mother, a portrait of a Caribbean girl whose mother died in childbirth, is a beautifully written downer. From her joyless childhood to her loveless marriage, Xuela Richardson is afflicted with an existential numbness that was caused in part, Kincaid seems to suggest, by British colonialism. Like Kincaid’s previous narrators (Lucy and Annie John, in the books named for them), only more so, Xuela is an uncensored misanthrope, pitiless in her assessment of all around her, yet a tragic romantic on the subject of her own emotional privations. The novel is almost comically bleak (”All roads come to an end, and all ends are the same, trailing off into nothing.”), pushing Kincaid’s signature pessimism perilously close to self-parody. Her crystalline prose is a pleasure to read, but her narcissistic protagonist is simply insufferable.