Disappointing debut fiction from the daughter of William Styron: the story of a poor little rich girl who realizes that her beloved black nanny had a life outside her family’s palatial Connecticut home.
Addy Abraham, 32-year-old daughter of a famous philosopher and a beautiful actress, suffers from a crippling anxiety disorder that prevents her from forging close relationships, romantic or otherwise. But when her childhood nanny Louise dies, Addy takes a few pills and manages to quell her fears of travel and social interaction, then flies to the Caribbean island of St. Clair for the funeral. Ensconced in Lou’s hilltop home, Addy reflects on her own troubled childhood, learns something about the island’s political history, and meets the cast of characters featured in Lou’s long-ago stories—all of whom serve more as fodder for Addy’s insecurities and complaints than as actual, fully realized people. “You know what she used to call me? Her white daughter,” she tells Lou’s sons, Derek and Phillip. But the islanders don’t exactly treat her like a long-lost relation, and Addy is forced to question whether her love for Lou had actually been reciprocated. “ ‘Do yah evah tink about anyone but yahself? Yah must tink yah de only person in de goddamn world,’ ” Derek says to Addy when she tries to engage him in a conversation about her favorite subject (herself). Unfortunately, for the sake of the story, he’s right: Addy is so unbearably narcissistic and immature that it’s difficult to sustain interest in her thin plight. “God, I was sick of myself,” she thinks at one point, aptly echoing the reader’s sentiments.
Despite many gorgeous turns of phrase and Styron’s masterful use of Caribbean dialect, All the Finest Girls is undone by labored plotting and the sulky narrator-heroine’s lack of self-awareness—not to mention plain old awareness.