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.
... richly layered ... complex ... The novel careens magically across the American landscape, shifting ingeniously between literary styles as it charts the trail of impaired loves in these two uprooted families ... The sweetness of the Caribbean-based mother and daughter romantic narratives (humorously diluted by their compulsive swearing) differs strikingly in tone and style from the earlier sections that trace Fly’s family history, as though these two families inhabit emotionally and spiritually separate worlds. The first chapter is an edgy satire on race, religion, and sex, with a slightly fantastical and apocalyptic overlay ... The novel’s tone, style, and point of view constantly shift, with no two of the dozen chapters having quite the same narrative voice ... The shifts are sometimes jarring and that is exactly the point. The fragmented architecture is yet another strategy to create dislocation, a form that mirrors the fractured and stunted loves of the two families and the nonlinear path that brings them together. In a lesser author’s hands, the project could feel forced and fragmented, but Yanique brilliantly unifies the novel through her scintillating, consistently lyrical language, whether using lampoon, introspection, or tense social drama.
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.