After a brief, biting foray into nonfiction (A Small Place, 1988), Kincaid returns to fiction with a spare, sure-footed second novel (after Annie John, 1985) about a young West Indian woman who tries to escape her mother and her island past--even as she is nourished by her memories in the cold and fatuous canyons of New York. When Lucy arrives in N.Y.C. to be au pair to Lewis and Mariah, she seems straitlaced and very provincial. So provincial, in fact, that she gets up on a sunny morning in midwinter and puts on a light madras dress. But Lucy is not stupid. Day by day, as she takes care of Lewis and Mariah's four daughters, each as blond and beautiful as their parents, she learns more about what she wants--or what she doesn't want. Mariah is a gentle, protected soul who delights in introducing Lucy to daffodils and her country house on one of the Great Lakes, never grasping the master/slave ironies in their relationship (""Mariah did not seem to notice what she had in common with the other diners, or what I had in common with the waiters""). Tough as she is, however, Lucy comes to love benighted Mariah as if she were her own mother--the mother she hates/loves. By the end of her first year in New York, Lewis has left Mariah, and Lucy leaves their grand apartment for a shabby bohemian apartment, a lover, and a job with a photographer. As she savors the widening ring of her outward independence, however, she confronts the magnitude of her love for her mother--and the permanent ache of homesickness that is the price of her freedom. An austere and beautiful short novel. Lucy is the perfect vehicle for Kincaid's complex blend of toughness and vulnerability, cold insights about class and color cut through with a sun-warmed sense of mother and place.