Study Guide

Lucy: A Novel Summary

By Jamaica Kincaid

Lucy: A Novel Summary

Nineteen-year old Lucy is really far from home. Originally from the West Indies, Lucy has just gotten to the U.S. to start her new job as an au pair (that's a fancy French word for babysitter). She fills us readers in on the details of her plan: she'll be working for Mariah and Lewis, a couple with four young girls, and staying in their ritzy apartment while she takes classes at night.

Life in the U.S. is hardly the barrel of monkeys Lucy had imagined. (Wait, why not a barrel of kangaroos? That'd be fun, right?... But we digress.) On top of battling a case of homesickness, she soon finds that living with a bunch of strangers in a foreign country turns out to be a recipe for misunderstandings and awkward moments.

When spring rolls around, Lucy accompanies Mariah and the kids to the family's lake house. Lucy starts to notice marital trouble brewing when Lewis joins them a bit later. While they're at the lake house, Mariah throws a party in the hopes that Lucy can meet some new friends. At the party she meets Hugh and the two have sex, which results in a pregnancy scare.

Things between Mariah and Lewis start to get ugly. Not only are the two bickering up a storm, Lewis is having an affair with Mariah's best friend Dinah (cue dramatic soap opera music). At the end of the summer, Lucy and the family leave the lake house and return to the apartment where Mariah's and Lewis's marriage continues to deteriorate.

Encouraged by Mariah, Lucy develops an interest in photography and art. Her friend Peggy takes her to a party with a bunch of artist types (and a whole lot of marijuana), where she meets a dude named Paul. Paul and Lucy hit it off and, despite Peggy's warnings that this guy is no good, they begin a very, um, sexually adventurous relationship.

Itching for a change, Lucy begins making plans to get an apartment with Peggy. Mariah and Lewis decide to split up (no surprise there). Lucy also gets some bad news when she learns that her father has died and left her mother totally broke.

The news of her father's death motivates Lucy to work up enough nerve to quit her babysitting job and move out of Mariah and Lewis's place. She and Peggy become roomies and Lucy takes a job as a secretary for a photographer. Her love life cools off a bit as she begins to get sick of Paul and his possessive ways.

So Lucy's new independent life means a happy ending, right? Not so much, actually. Lucy feels lonelier than ever. The poor girl is even in tears at the very end, writing in her journal about how much she wishes she could have more love in her life. It's a downer of an ending (you've been warned), no Cinderella story here.