Book Review: Being Lara by Lola Jaye
March 13, 2012 19 Comments
I enjoyed reading it, but I wondered about the way it was written: what was going on there?
Being Lara: What it is about
We meet Lara when she is 30 years old and is celebrating her birthday with her family. But then the door opens and a woman she had been wanting to meet since she was 10, comes in…
Lara is a successful business woman who was adopted at the age of 3, when her parents, her mother a well-known pop star, visited Nigeria for a charity project, saw her at an orphanage, and fell in love with her.
The book goes back in time and we read the stories of Yomi, Lara’s birth mother, and that of Pat, her adoptive mother. Why Lara ended up in an orphanage, we only find out towards the end of the book.
Lara has always had problems with abandonment and so far, at 30, has had several relationships but spoiled them for herself by expecting the partners to run off. Her newest boyfriend, Tyler, is a lovely man, but he can’t convince her that he’s there to stay.
When Lara finally meets her birth mother, she finds it hard to get close to her. She slowly starts to grow into the new Lara, who has a history not only in England, but also in Nigeria, and into a woman who dares to take some risks and doesn’t worry about being abandoned along the way.
Being Lara: What I thought
This was a good story about what it is like to be adopted. Not that I’d know, but it sounded very plausible. I liked it that Lara’s mother’s life in Nigeria (up to the point that Lara was born) was included in this story. While most of the book it wasn’t clear why she decided not to care for Lara herself, it was interesting (and useful, for later in the book) to know her back story. I don’t know anything about Nigeria so I loved to learn a bit about life there (in the 1970s and 1980s).
I didn’t like Lara all that much, though. She was neurotic about expecting her boyfriend to run off, and for that reason, didn’t even want him to to get close to her. She was rather business-like and cool. I’m not sure I was completely convinced by her fear of being abandoned. She’d had many years with her adoptive parents and had been abandoned by her birth mother when she was too young to remember it. I found that story line rather weak. Much better was how Lara got to know her birth mother and the sensitivities with her adoptive parents about this.
However, what irritated me enormously about the book was the following:
While little (and bigger) Lara was very occupied with the fact that she looked different from the people around her, the words black, white, and coloured did not appear in the book until page 222 (once each, and not after that page again, either). The author describes black people in terms of their hairdo (“a man and a lady both with big Afro hairstyles”, p. 70) or in relation to Lara (“Looking just like her.”). It seems that the author does not want to categorise people into black or white while this is exactly what Lara does do!
In my eyes, skin colour doesn’t in general matter, but in this story, it does, as Lara is a black girl surrounded by white people that makes her feel like an alien, and she doesn’t at first understand why she’s not like the others. So, I sincerely disliked how the story circumnavigates the issue of skin colour. I noticed this early on in the book and it bothered me a lot, although not so much that it spoiled the whole book for me.
The story was written fluently, and while it was not a page turner, I was curious to know what would happen next. In all, I enjoyed reading this book when I wasn’t irritated by the black/white issue.
Rating: 4/5 stars for the story as such, 3.5/5 stars when including the irritation factor
I got this book: for review from William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins
I read this in: English, the original language
Number of pages: 320
First published: 2012 (March 13th)
Genre: contemporary fiction