This novel maps the romantic history and emotional inheritance of one couple newly in love, moving from the US to the Virgin Islands to Ghana and back again, to show how one couple's romance is influenced by the family lore and love stories that preceded their own pairing.
We need the touchstone, we crave it as the stories go on, jumping in time and between different perspectives ... An ancestor is more than just an antecedent, and the short stories stand mighty on their own. The transitions between these distinct voices are sometimes jarring. This is intentional: As in life, the chapters are shaped, shaken, cut short by what it means to be an American — Black American, American immigrant, Caribbean American, qualify and hyphenate at will ... As with words on either side of a hyphen, it takes reading these stories side by side, front to back — taking them as a whole — to truly understand the characters’ history ... Across her borderless, boundaryless novel, Yanique is telling us a myth of her own. By the end it is clear that this is our mythology. On this tumultuous mapping of American magic, we find ourselves at the center. This novel boldly tells us: You are here.
Each of the novel’s characters carries the residues of an initial love and its shattered illusions; these go on to shape the relationships that follow ... The characters lurch from beginning to beginning, always bringing the past with them. Yanique inhabits many of their divergent points of view ... Themes of race, religion, class, and education appear throughout this ambitious novel, but its abiding focus is on the intimate, and the way broader social forces can impinge upon it ... Yanique...retains only echoes of the magical realism that influenced her first novel. Rather, reality assumes a surreal tinge, and the fluidity of narration, across time, place, and characters, imparts an epic register to the intimate encounter between Stela and Fly. Though this episodic mode can, at times, diminish the novel’s narrative tension, the drama of its last fifty pages proves ample compensation.
Yanique’s attention to detail and her characters’ generational wounds is well thought out. The residue of those wounds plays out both subtly and with force in how Fly and Stela view one another as well as themselves. The family histories Yanique weaves in explain the couple’s motivation, whether they are running from their experiences or finally facing their traumas head on. The writing is soft and intricate with no detail wasted. Readers are lured into the themes of self-discovery, acceptance, and trauma, with an ending well worth the investment.