A fun, fresh, timely debut novel about the uproarious adventures that befall the Palacio family during their disastrous illegal residence in Trinidad that poignantly captures the complexities of dysfunctional families and passionate (but sometimes messy) romance.
After fleeing crumbling, volatile Venezuela, Yola Palacio wants nothing more than to settle into a peaceful new life in Trinidad with her family. And who cares if they’re there illegally—aren’t most of the people on the island? But life for the Palacios is far from quiet—and when Yola’s Aunt Celia dies, the family once again find their lives turned upside down. For Celia had been keeping a very big secret—she owed a LOT of money to a local criminal called Ugly. And without the funds to pay him off, Ugly has the entire family do his bidding until Celia’s debt is settled. What Ugly says, the Palacios do, otherwise the circumstances are too dreadful to imagine.
To say that the year that follows is tumultuous for the Palacios is an understatement. But in the midst of the turmoil appears Roman—Ugly’s distractingly gorgeous right-hand man. And although she knows it’s terrible and quite possibly dangerous, Yola just can’t help but give in to the attraction. Where, though, do Roman’s loyalties lie? And could this wildly inappropriate romance just be the antidote to a terrible year of Ugly?
Combining the spark of Imbolo Mbue with the irresistible wit of Maria Semple, One Year of Ugly brilliantly explores cross-cultural struggles and assimilation from a unique immigrant perspective and introduces us to an extraordinary new voice in contemporary fiction.
Trinidadian writer Mackenzie debuts with this sparkling account of a romance between Venezuelan immigrant Yola Palacio in Trinidad and a man working for a human trafficker amidst Yola's family drama. After sardonic writer Yola's aunt Celia dies, her debt to human trafficker Ugly puts the undocumented Palacio family in danger. Ugly threatens to report the Palacios unless they host newly arrived immigrants fleeing from Venezuela in their Port of Spain house. The Palacios fear their Venezuelan guests and lock themselves in their rooms each night. Ugly, meanwhile, tasks his enforcer Rom n with ensuring none of the Palacio family leave the city or contact the police, and Rom n becomes a love interest for the conflicted Yola ("I know what you're thinking This guy's a criminal who was just choking your father, you horny bitch! All I can say is: forbidden fruit is the original aphrodisiac"). Mackenzie skillfully balances the trope of sordid romance with a sympathetic portrait of the people exploited by human traffickers, but the strongest element is the portrait of the family, which Mackenzie fills out with a deep understanding of Venezuelan history. Passages of Aunt Celia's diary recall memories of a more prosperous Venezuela before it was brought down by environmental exploitation and political corruption, and further inform the family's conflicted relationship with their fellow Venezuelans. This thoughtful and entertaining saga will move readers. \n