I have read a lot of books by Laurie Graham and have enjoyed them all – this book, Like According to Lubka is no exception. Like many of her titles the author tells a first person narrative by someone who is not always the most self-aware narrator but who ends up winning the affection of the reader and quite a lot of the characters as well.
This book is set in 2004. Our narrator is Buzz Wexler – born Beryl in Pittsburgh but now working in the music industry in London. Buzz has been at the front of new urban music for years. She keeps her position by ruthlessness, her looks by surgery and her energy by the consumption of illegal substances. She ends up doing a favour to her boss and taking a group of elderly Bulgarian women on tour let by the indomitable Lubka. These women are the Gorni Grannies and have been discovered living in a rural community and singing traditional songs. Their album is doing well in the World Music division and the grannies themselves are determined to get everything they can out of their trip to the UK and USA.
This book is very funny. Lots of things give rise to amusement. The grannies’ misunderstanding of how things work away from home, their continual mangling of the English language, the interpreter’s aspirations, the tough guys who follow them around because one granny has connections to the mafia, Lubka’s complete lack of embarrassment, and Buzz’s growing awareness that she has been well shafted by her employer.
Underneath the amusement are some very serious issues though. The grannies have lived lives of pain and poverty and their country is subject to corruption and crime. Buzz cannot continue to live as she has been doing because she is burning herself up and has no foundation. One character is being sexually exploited by her boyfriend. The grannies show us what might be achieved if our world slowed down a bit and we truly appreciate what we have. Everyone in this book is wounded in some way but the story shows the importance of kindness. The author wraps up the story beautifully and in a very satisfactory way. An excellent read.