Francisco Goldman's first novel since his acclaimed, nationally bestselling Say Her Name (winner of the Prix Femina étranger), Monkey Boy is a story about the impact of divided identity—whether Jewish/Catholic, white/brown, native/expat—and one misfit's quest to heal his damaged past and find love. Our narrator, Francisco Goldberg, an American writer, has been living in Mexico when, because of a threat provoked by his journalism, he flees to New York City, hoping to start afresh. His last relationship ended devastatingly five years before, and he may now finally be on the cusp of a new love with a young Mexican woman he meets in Brooklyn. But Francisco is soon beckoned back to his childhood home.
Francisco Goldman’s Monkey Boy, which can easily be considered biographical, is the kind of novel that shows you real horror while simultaneously making you laugh ... Goldman does many things right in Monkey Boy. The first one is that he excels at that ineffable thing we call 'readability,' for lack of a better word. Reading this book is like reading a family saga, a memoir and a novel while listening to an old friend telling stories about his life ... Monkey Boy is fiction that feels like nonfiction; a story of growing up a marginalized citizen in white suburbia, as well as a narrative about learning family history and the way migration has shaped the world. And it’s all carried by Goldman’s distinct style. His words will linger in the minds and hearts of readers long after they’ve turned the last page.
... a memory book, a novel that reads like an autobiographical immersion, a story that travels relentlessly between a difficult present and an unfinished past ... full of rebellious comedy and vitality. Goldman is a natural storyteller—funny, intimate, sarcastic, all-noticing ... The prose is loose-jointed, hybrid, elastic ... hospitable rhythms of prose ... The density of the memory, the playing over present and past, the essayistic space made for an ongoing political dimension, along with an insistent optimism—all these are characteristic of the novel as a whole, and of Goldman’s feel for a kind of narrative phrasing that allows an ideally sauntering and shifting perspective ... steadily becomes a moving and tender elegy for a woman who seems to have spent most of her life suspended warily between visceral love of her birthplace and learned gratitude for her adopted home ... impatient with conventional novelistic structuring, bolder in some respects than Goldman’s first novel, is desperate to seek a reckoning that, if it does not exactly lie beyond fiction, may sit uneasily within it ... In The Long Night of White Chickens, the narrator’s father is portrayed as genial and sweet-natured, a truly good man. With terminal ferocity, “Monkey Boy” sets that record straight, bringing both parents out of fictional camouflage and into something that feels like the transparency of memoir.
This is a journalist’s notebook and an artist’s sketchbook—every detail vivid and meaningful, every captivating character a portal into the struggle for freedom and dignity. Although steeped in trauma and loneliness, prejudice and brutality, secrets and lies, Goldman’s ravishing, multidirectional novel is also iridescent with tenderness, comedic absurdity, sensual infatuation, reclaimed love, the life-sustaining desire to 'remember every single second,' and the redemption of getting every element just right.