Tuesday 12 May 2020

#BlogTour One Year of Ugly by Caroline Mackenzie

It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for One Year of Ugly by Caroline Mackenzie.
About the Author
Caroline Mackenzie is a freelance translator living in Trinidad with her husband and son. A national scholar, she studied in the UK on an Open Scholarship for four years to qualify as a specialist translator before returning to her native Trinidad, where she began writing more extensively. Her short fiction has appeared in literary publications around the world, and in 2017 she was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. In 2018 she was named the Short Fiction winner of the Small Axe Literary Competition. One Year of Ugly is her first novel, and the TV rights have already been snapped up by Netflix.

Follow @carolinemackenziewrites on Instagram, on Amazon, on GoodreadsBuy One Year of Ugly

About the book
Having escaped crumbling, socialist Venezuela, Yola Palacios and her family are settling into their new under-the-radar life in Trinidad.

But when the formidable* Aunt Celia dies, the Palacios discover that she’s been keeping one hell of a secret. She’s seriously in debt to a local criminal called Ugly, a debt that is now theirs to repay.

He might dress like David Bowie, but Ugly’s business style is pure Pablo Escobar. What he says, the Palacios must do, otherwise: big trouble. Ugly’s right-hand man Román is tasked with keeping an eye on the family but Yola can barely keep her eyes off him. Forbidden fruit is the original aphrodisiac, and when Yola and Román fall in lust, even bigger trouble is on the horizon…

Told with raw, acid humour, One Year of Ugly is a story of family, first love and finding home. A blisteringly fresh take on the migrant experience, set in a beautiful corner of the Caribbean, and a poignant reminder that no matter what form of ugly crosses your path, there’s always a way to laugh through it.
(*family bitch)
The Palacios family are migrants from Venezuela living in Trinidad, having sought refuge from the dismal situation in their country of origin.When Aunt Celia dies the Palacios family mourn the fact this foul-mouthed wise woman has gone, especially Yola who felt understood by her more than anyone else in her family.

That's until Ugly, a successful and ruthless coyote, turns up to tell them he expects the family to honour the really high debts Celia left behind. They become a cog in his relocation package company, which awakens emotions and unexpected thoughts about their fellow countrymen, and for Yola the debt comes with a more conflicting surprise.

I absolutely loved the way the author approached the story, the often controversial topics and the vibrancy with which it is written. There are no punches pulled. There are no moments of redressing situations, messages and characters. Thoughts are just thrown out there with wilful abandonment and simultaneously with a cunning accuracy. Don't be fooled by the snark and tomfoolery.

There is one chapter in particular I found myself drawn to, probably because I've experienced it, but also due to the fact that people who haven't experienced it never quite understand what it feels like. 'A pall of Otherness' - it's absolutely a thing. How other that Otherness is depends on your nationality, race, ethnicity, colour and shade of skin, and where you experience it.

I think my mantra should now be, according to the wise words of old Aunt Celia - 'Life is a big piece of sugarcane' - obviously what she means is open to quite a few interpretations, but hey-ho I am up for sucking the sweetness out of life.

Yup, that's exactly what you get from Mackenzie, a bittersweet symphony of life as the majority of us don't know it and are quite happy to ignore from the safety of our secure walls and borders. The perhaps most poignant point of this story is the hypocrisy of those who should be able to comprehend the problems of migrant families, and indeed those without the legal paperwork, and yet they often turn into the very people driven by throwback attitudes of colonialism and privilege.

Also, on a softer note, the touching message in this story about allowing yourself to reach for your dreams even when the world tells you it's a waste of time. Life passes by so quickly that dreams are often buried and forgotten. The story is absolutely a statement about illegal migrants living in political limbo, and one about being humane when the atmosphere around us suggests otherwise, but it is also very much one of hope.

Buy One Year of Ugly at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: The Borough Press / Hardback £12.99 / eBook £7.99 / pub date 14th May 2020. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Waterstones.

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