PRIMITIVE PEOPLE by Francine Prose
Kirkus Star

PRIMITIVE PEOPLE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Prose's seventh novel (Bigfoot Dreams, 1986, etc.) inspires many a giggle as it relates the odd and fascinating adventures of a Haitian au pair in an eccentric upper-class Hudson Valley household--social satire at its slyest and best. Shy, beautiful Simone of Port-au-Prince had no choice but to leave Haiti when she did--not only had the government fallen, but, more devastatingly, Simone's artist lover had dumped her for her best friend and Simone couldn't face the humiliation. Quitting her job as chief assistant to the US cultural attachÉ, Simone buys a fake green card and an illegal US marriage certificate, flies to New York, and winds up a few days later in the very bohemian household of Rosemary Porter. Rosemary, a wiry-haired sculptor of fertility objects, self-obsessed mother of two morbid children, and estranged, middle-aged wife of wealthy Geoffrey Porter of an influential Hudson Valley family, takes to Simone instantly, no questions asked--giving her a tour of Geoffrey's crumbling, chaotic mansion (from which they might be evicted at any moment) and introducing her to young George and Maisie (""All you have to do is make sure the kids don't kill each other...and cheer them up! I don't care how. Lift their little spirits somehow!""). Not surprisingly, Simone soon finds herself identifying more with her shell-shocked charges than with their wildly irrational elders. She huddles with George and Maisie around the Porters' massive kitchen table, wolfing down red beans, rice, and fried plantains while fending off casual references to ""primitive"" Haiti and trying to make sense of a world in which philandering fathers, dithering mothers, double-crossing best friends, suburban witches, and the homicidal Count next door hold the fate of innocents in their unsteady hands. As always, Prose's wit sparkles. Another winner by a writer who has hit her stride.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0060934697
Page count: 250pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"