CLARISE CUMBERBATCH WANT TO GO HOME by Joan Cambridge
Kirkus Star

CLARISE CUMBERBATCH WANT TO GO HOME

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

There are no streets paved with gold here for Clarise Cumberbatch, illegal alien in search of her wayward husband, in Cambridge's comic and poignant first novel. Described in lilting Guyanese tones, Clarise arrives at Kennedy Airport in early March ""when it cold like dog nose and she shivering and lonely."" Harold Cumberbatch, self-proclaimed ""ever-loving-never-leaving husband,"" has run off with his sweet-woman, and Clarise is determined to show him ""he making a big mistake if he think that America and a wild woman like Leonie is all this life have to offer."" Clarise is handicapped by her naivetÉ her ignorance, her absence of a green card, and her worthless Guyanese currency. Her obsession with invisible Harold doesn't help matters. Mavis Drakes, a Guyanese ""been-away"" who has made it by Clarise's standards, feeds and houses her old friend and tries to educate her in the ways of the new world. But stubborn Clarise won't hear and won't learn. And host Mavis is a ""touchous"" woman. Clarise can't remember that she's posing as Mavis at the employment office, can't shut up about Harold, and can't keep the only job she gets. The search for Harold is conducted offstage--a year of canvassing neighborhoods, bothering strangers and enlisting the eccentric--summarized neatly by an exasperated narrator. Life in New York with its immigration bounty hunters, its sales tax and TV quiz shows makes no sense to this ""just-come"": life back in Beterverwagting begins to look ""not so complicate."" As a portrait of a true naive, Clarise Cumberbatch will remind some of Alice Walker's Celie, but Clarise as Victim is in the driver's seal, and her outrages are noisy and funny. All in all, Cambridge creates, an unlikely American heroine here, a sweetly eccentric immigrant who never should have come.

Pub Date: March 16th, 1987
Publisher: Ticknor & Fields/Houghton Mifflin