Jennine Capo Crucet’s debut novel, Make Your Home Among Strangers, is a moving coming-of-age story. Cuban-American Lizet is the first in her family to attend college. While Miami-raised Lizet struggles to adjust to college life at an elite Northeastern University, her family in Miami is breaking apart. Her parents have separated and her mother has become obsessed with the plight of five-year-old Cuban refugee (a fictionalized Elian Gonzalez). The novel traces the course of Lizet’s first year in college as she slowly adapts to academic life and seeks to stay connected to the family she is emotionally adrift from.
Crucet does an excellent job of exploring the struggles of first generation college students and her portrayal of Cuban culture in Miami is nuanced and authentic. Lizet is a fascinating character; she doesn't always make the right choices but her discovery of herself and her own desires is compelling. This is a rich novel filled with insight and empathy for its characters and a great back to school read for adults.