One Year of Ugly: A Novel

One Year of Ugly: A Novel 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 RomanceAfter Fleeing Crumbling, Volatile Venezuela, Yola Palacio Wants Nothing 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 Junot Diaz 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

Caroline Mackenzie is a Trinidadian writer whose short fiction has appeared in publications around the world In 2017 she was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and she won first prize for fiction in the 2019 Small Axe Literary Competition Her debut novel ONE YEAR OF UGLY will be published in May eBook July hard cover UK and July US 2020.Caroline currently lives in Trinidad and is cracking away at novel 2.

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  • Hardcover
  • 336 pages
  • One Year of Ugly: A Novel
  • Caroline Mackenzie
  • 24 November 2019
  • 1982128917

10 thoughts on “One Year of Ugly: A Novel

  1. says:

    Caroline Mackenzie s offbeat debut novel certainly makes one heck of an impression and is bone achingly funny about the most serious of issues, the horrors that underpin the global refugee crisis Some might question whether it is appropriate to treat the desperate and despairing plights of so many in the world with such humour but Mackenzie succeeds in throwing much needed attention on and highlight a topic many would prefer to avert their eyes from The Palacious family have left the political Caroline Mackenzie s offbeat debut novel certainly makes one heck of an impression and is bone achingly funny about the most serious of issues, the horrors that underpin the global refugee crisis Some might question whether it is appropriate to treat the desperate and despairing plights of so many in the world with such humour but Mackenzie succeeds in throwing much needed attention on and highlight a topic many would prefer to avert their eyes from The Palacious family have left the political nightmare that their home in Venezuela had become and made their way as illegal immigrants to settle in Port of Spain in Trinidad However, they just might have jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire when Aunt Celia dies, and Ugly and his criminal cohorts turn up to inform them of the huge debt that she has left behind and make it clear that they are now expected to pay it off.Mackenzie presents us with a year in the life of the family as they face one worry and concern after another in a narrative interspersed with diary entries from the now dead Aunt Celia in the narrative She creates a diverse and vibrant range of characters, larger than life, as Ugly has one of his henchmen, the dangerous Roman keep a close eye on the family The Palacious s are forced into a range of unpaid work to make good their debts It is the women that make the deepest impression, such as the one off Aunt Milagros, the deceased Aunt Celia, and the 24 year old Yola, and the hot and heavy feelings of desire that spring up between her and Ugly s man, Roman This family drama is entertaining, unforgettable and has some eye popping storylines that tackle the refugee crisis in the most surprising of ways This was an unexpected delight of a read, fun, well written, and I cannot wait to see what the author comes up with next Many thanks to HarperCollins for an ARC

  2. says:

    One Year of Ugly is Carolines Mackenzies debut novel, due to be released on July 14, 2020 In One Year of Ugly we meet the Palacio family, who are originally from Venezuela but fled the country to start a new life in the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago The entire Palacio family settles somewhat comfortably into life in Trinidad and for the most part is trying to carve out a new life for themselves Their semblance of security is shattered when the self appointed head of the One Year of Ugly is Caroline s Mackenzie s debut novel, due to be released on July 14, 2020 In One Year of Ugly we meet the Palacio family, who are originally from Venezuela but fled the country to start a new life in the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago The entire Palacio family settles somewhat comfortably into life in Trinidad and for the most part is trying to carve out a new life for themselves Their semblance of security is shattered when the self appointed head of the family, Aunt Celia dies, and they learn the ugly truth The family finds out that Aunt Celia lied about the legality of their immigration documents and they have all been living in Trinidad and Tobago illegally Added to this, Aunt Celia owes a lot of money to local criminal called Ugly which is now passed on to them Ugly lets the Palacios family knows in no uncertain terms that they are at his will and in order to pay off their debts they will have to do what he requires or else.Through the narration of 24 year old Yolo Palacios we get a direct look into what life is like for a whole year under the Ugly regime From the family being a safe house for illegal immigrants coming into the country, to working unpaid in a gentleman s club, the Palacios family is subjected to a lot To ensure that things goes smoothly, Ugly puts his right hand man, Roman in charge Yolo, while acutely aware of the position her family is in, cannot deny the insane attraction she feels for Roman A little confused Yolo turns to her Aunt Celia s journals for advice but how can she take the word of her Aunt who put her in this position to begin with I must be honest, when I first read the blurb and some of the Goodreads reviews, I was little nervous that Mackenzie used comedy as the device to tell this story I approached the reading of this book with much trepidation because what could possibly be funny about a group of illegal Venezuelan immigrants living under the duress of a local drug lord will be it socially insensitive will illegal Venezuelan find it tone deaf will this lead to a greater appreciation of the struggle Venezuelans face living in Trinidad All these questions andreally crossed my mind, however in reading this book all I got was well written, hilarious look into the fictional life of this family, filled with a lot of heart warming moments I loved being immersed in the world of the Palacios family through Yolo her narration was hilarious, wry and hella sarcastic At time points I felt the plot lagged a little and some of the situations worked out to nicely, especially the ending which tied up a little too clean for my taste While the author touched on it throughout the book I felt we missed opportunities to really highlight some struggle of Venezuelans in a real way I do recognize there is only so much you can do in 350 pages However, overall, I did enjoy this read a lotthan I thought I would If you are looking to spend time with some engaging characters who are held in a dubious situation but manages to come out on the other side, against all odds this book is your pick

  3. says:

    I received a copy of this book via net galley in exchange for an Honest review.i found it a very difficult book to get into, I restarted it at least 3 times and still had no idea what I was reading The author says she was writing with humour , I can only say that our idea of humour must be very different as there was nothing remotely funny about this book Illegal immigrants under appalling duress due to financial difficulty Made to do things they would never contemplated Attacked with iron I received a copy of this book via net galley in exchange for an Honest review.i found it a very difficult book to get into, I restarted it at least 3 times and still had no idea what I was reading The author says she was writing with humour , I can only say that our idea of humour must be very different as there was nothing remotely funny about this book Illegal immigrants under appalling duress due to financial difficulty Made to do things they would never contemplated Attacked with iron bars and constantly under observance this is far from comical I hated every minute of it and would not have continued had it not been for a challenge I would gie it 0 stars if i could but as i cannot it will have to be 1 I won t be reading anyby this author and don t understand how such drivel gets published

  4. says:

    Thanks to the Borough Press Harper Collins UK and NetGalley for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.This is a debut novel, and what a debut Although I hadnt heard of the author before, I was thrilled when I realised that we had a few things in common Ive also worked as a translator, and were both alumnae of Sussex University Go Sussex , and I am sure this will not be the last novel I read by Mackenzie.This novel touches on many things, and although it does Thanks to the Borough Press Harper Collins UK and NetGalley for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.This is a debut novel, and what a debut Although I hadn t heard of the author before, I was thrilled when I realised that we had a few things in common I ve also worked as a translator, and we re both alumnae of Sussex University Go Sussex , and I am sure this will not be the last novel I read by Mackenzie.This novel touches on many things, and although it does it with wit and humour at times a very sharp and quite dark sense of humour , the themes it delves in are quite serious Illegal immigrants in this case, Venezuelans in Trinidad that try to settle into their new life, but whose already uncertain and danger ridden existence becomescomplicated when they are blackmailed into doing all kind of other illegal things to settle the debt a member of their family, Aunt Celia, left unpaid upon her sudden death The Palacios, an extended but close family, with their traditions, their unique personalities, their traditions from home and from their adopted land, their parties and meals together, with their quirks and their not quite upstanding members, are suddenly thrown into the hands of the criminal underworld, and their lives become evendangerous There is blackmail, housing other illegal immigrants, being tracked and followed, having to work all hours to keep their non paying guests, being threatened and pushed around, and some of their members are even driven out of their minds by the pressure To all these events andthat I m keeping quiet , we have to add life as usual for this family, and that includes secret love children, a young girl s pregnancy, dangerous love affairs, strong women some with a flair for drama , weak willed men, heavy drinking, unfaithful husbands, grief and mourning, mental illness, trying to fit into a completely different place and being the object of prejudice and suspicion The author explains her reasons for choosing to write a comedy in her note at the end, and they make perfect sense to me First, because, as she says, some people might resist reading another book that deals in some of these very serious topics if they are presented in a straightforward manner, but a comedy might reach those readers, and also, because comedy and humour are great weapons to deal with dark situations and to endure and keep hope alive when things are tough The author does a great job, both in dealing with the illegal immigration angle, and also in creating a family that we love or at times, love to hate There are many characters, some pretty major not all the members of the family have important roles, but we do get to know them fairly well by the end of the novel, although there are plenty of surprises, and I m not only talking about Aunt Milagros here , and others that only pass by, like some of the illegal immigrants they are forced to house through the year, and in many cases they are depicted like a cartoonist would do, exaggerating some traits for comedic purposes, but affectionately Yola, the main protagonist, who narrates the story in the first person, is intelligent, witty, hard working, and although she might not see eye to eye with all the members of her family, she loves them fiercely and would do anything for all of them, even for the new arrivals that she s not so keen on Aunt Celia, who has died just before the story starts, is also very present in the novel, as she had been writing her biography memoir, and the manuscript is passed on to Yola, who is also a writer and translator, and whom the majority of the members of the family think of as the most suited to follow in Aunt Celia s steps and become the family s official bitch Celia s book is priceless, and we get to hear her voice through Yola s reading Then we have Ugly, who although doesn t turn up often, his few appearances are very memorable And Rom n, the romantic hero yes, I know, the name is self explanatory , who at first appearsof an antihero, but there isto him than his gorgeous looks, and, well, let s say the romance side of the story is bound to satisfy most readers keen on the genre I liked Yola, and although some of her actions seemed pretty unreasonable and inconsistent, she is fully aware of it As we re inside her head, it s easy to empathise, especially because she s put in pretty impossible situations at times, and it s difficult to imagine what else she could do I also liked most of the members of her family, and yes, Aunt Celia and Aunt Milagros truly shine through The female characters arememorable than the males other than Rom n and Ugly , but they are also familiar, and it s likely that most readers would identify people they know who share characteristics with them As is the case in all families, you might have your favourites, but there s so much history shared that you feel for them Yes, I ll miss the Palacios.The writing is sharp, witty, and eminently quotable It flows well and although I know many readers don t like first person narratives, I enjoyed this one, and also the fragments from Aunt Celia s memoirs There are words and expressions in Spanish I m not from Venezuela, but the Spanish terms are well written, and the research has paid up , but they do not impede the understanding of the text, and rather add to the atmosphere and the realism of the piece I have highlighted the text extensively, but I ll try to share a few examples of the writing As usual, I d recommend prospective readers to check a sample first, to see if it suits their taste Some reviewers did not like the humorous tone when dealing with such serious matters, but I felt that was one of the strong points of the novel Her wit was as lethal as a syringe of cyanide Only a real political genius like him, with his communist sympathies despite everything we d been through in Caracas, would name his kid after Fidel Castro Our immigrant story is as classic and unchanging as any Hans Christian Andersen fairytale the tale of the illegal refugees who risked it all to live like cockroaches, hiding in the dank cracks of an unknown society where they hope no one will find them, antennae forever twitching, listening for the heavy boot of National Security, only to discover that the strange new place they call home has all the ugliness of the world they left behind, except worse, because here you re stripped of rights, dignity, personhood Life is a big piece of sugarcane Sugarcane Yes, a maldito sugarcane You have to bite down hard and suck as much sweetness out of it as you can The ending is open to interpretation and to what we have learned and think about Yola I liked it, as I liked the whole book, and whichever choice readers think she goes for, it is certain to be hopeful and positive although this being Yola, not without a touch of irony and ambivalence Considering what happens during the book, the ending is perhaps too neat, but this is a comedy so it goes with the territory, and I think most readers will enjoy it.This is a great debut novel, which deals in serious topics using a comedic register that in my opinion works very well but might not suit everybody The characters are wonderful, if somewhat cartoonish at times, and the family Palacios is likely to stay with readers for a long time I recommend this novel to people interest in finding new authors, and who don t mind the use of dark comedy to discuss important issues I highly recommend this book and I am looking forward to the next novel by the author

  5. says:

    One year of ugly is a wickedly hilarious tale of a year in the life of the Palacios family Full of dark humour with brilliant one liners,the author tackles a serious issue, that of illegal immigrants trying to live life under the radar of the authorities Somehow despite the wit I didnt feel the author was trivialising the subject and to bring the plight of this group of people to the attention of a wider audience in such an entertaining way should be applauded.The Palacios family are illegal One year of ugly is a wickedly hilarious tale of a year in the life of the Palacios family Full of dark humour with brilliant one liners,the author tackles a serious issue, that of illegal immigrants trying to live life under the radar of the authorities Somehow despite the wit I didn t feel the author was trivialising the subject and to bring the plight of this group of people to the attention of a wider audience in such an entertaining way should be applauded.The Palacios family are illegal Venezuelan immigrants living in Port of Spain, Trinidad They find themselves in huge debt to Ugly, a mafioso type, thanks to recently deceased Aunt Celia and are forced to repay this debt in a variety of ways, in particular housing other illegals Featuring a wonderful cast of colourful characters this is one family I d love to meet Ranging from a drunken uncle, alcoholic philandering brother and a nun like aunt turned Rambo their adventures had me in stitches.Perhaps my only slight criticism is I become so engrossed in the lives of such vividly drawn characters and their hilarious antics that I had to keep reminding myself that this kind of life though maybe not the escapades is reality for many.It s hard to pinpoint a favourite character out of this motley crew Suffice to say the females in this novel are definitely the stronger sex Yola takes centre stage but for me Aunt Milagros is a force to be reckoned with.A special thanks to HarperCollins for inviting me to read this wonderful novel as it may have been a title I d overlook whilst browsing in a bookshop How much I enjoyed this took me by surprise so I urge people to pick up a copy or add to their tbr pile Full of quirky characters, colourful language ,laugh out loud moments strip club scenes especially and oozing Latino charm this novel is hugely entertaining.Thanks of course to the author and Netgalley for allowing me to read in exchange for an honest review

  6. says:

    I utterly adored this book There lies at the heart of it a serious tale of exploitation and refugees but it is told as a comedic and incredible tale in the year of the Palacio clan, mainly focusing on daughter Yola but weaving in a lovable and diverse wider family Its rare that I laugh out loud at a book but did frequently at this gem A little reminiscent of the superb My Sister The Serial Killer in terms of dark humour, I would highly recommend it With thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins I utterly adored this book There lies at the heart of it a serious tale of exploitation and refugees but it is told as a comedic and incredible tale in the year of the Palacio clan, mainly focusing on daughter Yola but weaving in a lovable and diverse wider family It s rare that I laugh out loud at a book but did frequently at this gem A little reminiscent of the superb My Sister The Serial Killer in terms of dark humour, I would highly recommend it With thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins for an ARC in consideration of an honest review Reviews will be added to outlets closer to publication

  7. says:

    Warning don t read this if you re offended by swearing or millenials I adored this book right from the beginning The characters came to life and from very early on I was invested in their story both of the Palacios family as a whole, and in Yola s individual journey The sardonic tone of the story adds to my love of the characters, because it makes them realists I ll remind you here that this is a work of fiction, and as such there may be some elements of disbelief but isn t that was Warning don t read this if you re offended by swearing or millenials I adored this book right from the beginning The characters came to life and from very early on I was invested in their story both of the Palacios family as a whole, and in Yola s individual journey The sardonic tone of the story adds to my love of the characters, because it makes them realists I ll remind you here that this is a work of fiction, and as such there may be some elements of disbelief but isn t that was fiction is for There are stereotypes and cliches, and even a couple of moments where I rolled my eyes, but in my opinion that s exactly why I read contemporary fiction if I wanted the disappointment and tragedy of real life, I d go to the local bus station Underneath the story are real issues that need to be addressed and this book does so with a sprinkle of sugar, a good belly laugh, and characters who fly off the pages with their exploration, attitude and vulnerability.Just onething, and this is a tip of my hat directly to Caroline McKenzie there is a real knack in this book for placing me firmly in time It s not always easy, and not always obvious, but when an author has the skill to ensure the reader always knows where they are in time, it can truly lift a piece of fiction from mediocrity into excellence

  8. says:

    Definitely not my usual romance story but I enjoyed it so much for so many different reasons The mixture of characters is something that I definitely didnt expect and the language within was very different in the meaning that it feltlike I was there with the family and the characters and of course their banter and arguments are very colourful The family drama and the dynamic between all of them is very well done by the author in my opinion and it really made me wanting to readand Definitely not my usual romance story but I enjoyed it so much for so many different reasons The mixture of characters is something that I definitely didn t expect and the language within was very different in the meaning that it feltlike I was there with the family and the characters and of course their banter and arguments are very colourful The family drama and the dynamic between all of them is very well done by the author in my opinion and it really made me wanting to readand to see where everything goes Add in the dead aunt and her journals and stories, this was an interesting book overall It definitely has triggers for many people but as in real life, these things are happening and we have to take them as they come

  9. says:

    The author frames a refugee story of loss, displacement and suffering in a comedic lens in what is an attempt to make a storyaccessible to the everyday reader One Year of Ugly is really well written and the unexpected twists and turns including whirlwind romance kept me hooked for the entirety of the novel.There is something to be said, however, about retelling a refugee story that is surely interspersed with so muchpain and suffering than the author could ever grasp and could The author frames a refugee story of loss, displacement and suffering in a comedic lens in what is an attempt to make a storyaccessible to the everyday reader One Year of Ugly is really well written and the unexpected twists and turns including whirlwind romance kept me hooked for the entirety of the novel.There is something to be said, however, about retelling a refugee story that is surely interspersed with so muchpain and suffering than the author could ever grasp and could never effectively convey I understand that she was attempting to take a different perspective from the norm, but it did leave me feeling as though the story was only partially told

  10. says:

    I really enjoyed this book I thought it was funny and witty and also eye opening, and made meaware of a situation I hadnt been before I loved the characters and the scene setting and Id definitely readof Carolines work I really enjoyed this book I thought it was funny and witty and also eye opening, and made meaware of a situation I hadn t been before I loved the characters and the scene setting and I d definitely readof Caroline s work

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