LADY MOSES by Lucinda Roy


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 An overwritten and underpowered debut about a young woman of mixed race who predictably finds strength, wisdom, and compassion after surviving ordeals, major and minor, on three continents. Poet Roy vividly evokes the novel's varied settings, but its storyline is concept-driven (a young woman facing down adversity), with insights more banal than profound: ``There is much to be happy about in this world if we look for it,'' says the lover of Jacinta Moses, the narrator, who in turn tells those attending her mother's funeral that ``love can not happen in a small room. . . the beloved together are the meaning of life.'' Jacinta begins her tale as her mother is dying, then moves back and forth in time, recalling her English childhood, her marriage to an American, and her life- changing visit to Africa. Jacinta's father, Simon Moses, was an African writer who came to England, where he met and married her white mother, Louise; the two were so happy that when he died the grieving Louise went insane and Jacinta was cared for by a foster mother. A bright child, who wrote poetry, she somehow survived, but she missed her father and his stories of Africa, and she resented her mother's illness and self-absorption. Determined to improve her life, Jacinta eventually went to college, where she met the self- absorbed Manny, whom she married and accompanied back to Virginia. There, initially happy, she gave birth to Lady, but the marriage was soon in trouble. A family visit to Africa, while liberating Jacinta (who falls in love with John Turay, an African), is marred by a fatal accident and unpleasant reminders of the past. At the close, with her mother now buried and the past faced down, Jacinta can go home to Africa without guilt or fear. Schematic takes on prejudice, Africa, and feminism acted out by unconvincing characters. A disappointing debut.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-06-018244-X
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1997