"She never leave me any lunch…I never had any friends except those I meet at church and in the shops."

Lilly May grew up in Jamaica, poor and alone. Everything that could have gone wrong often did: her mother died, and her father abandoned her; most of the people around her were mean at best and indifferent at worst; she was usually overworked and underappreciated. Yet her story is told with an exuberant and hopeful voice, one that seems to say simply "things were what they were." As the author looks back on her childhood and youth in her home country, she sucks readers in with her many (mis)adventures as she grows up into a strong young woman in spite of (or maybe because of) her situation.

The author speaks and writes with a mix of patois and the odd grammar of one for whom standard English is not a native language; but whereas in other books this would be a point against it, here the voice adds a unique authenticity to the writing. Lilly May takes us to a place where shoes at school are optional, where children do back-breaking labor on a daily basis, and where poor young men and women are often exploited for cheap or free labor. It is here that the author thrives and grows, moves around from guardian to guardian (each, it seems, worse than the last), and finds a place to belong with her uncle, the church, and God. Yet despite all the hardships she meets, this resilient young woman never loses her spirit or her pride. By the end of this short memoir, you feel like you've grown close to this young girl who has had more experiences in her first 16 years than many people have in their entire lifetimes. The book ends on a major milestone that implies better times are ahead—but this, perhaps, is a story for another book.

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