Summary and book reviews of Monkey Boy by Francisco Goldman

Monkey Boy

by Francisco Goldman

Monkey Boy by Francisco Goldman X
Monkey Boy by Francisco Goldman
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  • Published:
    May 2021, 336 pages

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Book Summary

Francisco Goldman's first novel since his acclaimed, nationally bestselling Say Her Name (winner of the Prix Femina étranger), Monkey Boy is a sweeping 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 outside Boston by a high school girlfriend who witnessed his youthful humiliations, and to visit his Guatemalan mother, Yolanda, whose intermittent lucidity unearths forgotten pockets of the past. On this five-day trip, the specter of Frank's recently deceased father, Bert, an immigrant from Ukraine – pathologically abusive, yet also at times infuriatingly endearing ― as well as the dramatic Guatemalan woman who helped raise him, and the high school bullies who called him "monkey boy," all loom.

Told in an intimate, irresistibly funny, and passionate voice, this extraordinary portrait of family and growing up "halfie," unearths the hidden cruelties in a predominantly white, working-class Boston suburb where Francisco came of age, and explores the pressures of living between worlds all his life. Monkey Boy is a new masterpiece of fiction from one of the most important American voices in the last forty years.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
[C]aptivating...Goldman's direct, intimate writing alone is worth the price of admission.

Library Journal
Fusing elements of creative nonfiction with autoethnography, Francisco Goldman creates the speculative ghost of a parallel life in Francisco Goldberg. Fans of Goldman's bibliography will find much to delight in here.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
[Goldman's] immersive, restless narrative style expertly plays the rhythms of thought and remembrance, weaving in his past and current romances, his investigation of and published work on Guatemalan terror, ultimately the quest for a whole made of so many halves: half Jewish, half Catholic, half American, half Guatemalan, half White, half Latino...The warmth and humanity of Goldman's storytelling are impossible to resist.

Booklist (starred review)
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.

Author Blurb Susan Choi, National Book Award winning author of Trust Exercise
Francisco Goldman...crafter of the tenderest dirtiest love scenes!?the wisest and spookiest children!?the fathers whose monstrosity breaks our hearts with compassion for them?who else can do all this? Francisco Goldman is uncategorizable, as is this book which made me grow a second heart just to contain all its fierce tenderness. Goldman has been my literary hero from his first entrancing Long Night of White Chickens to this latest take-no-prisoners Monkey Boy. He is a true original, that rarest of writers, the kind we cannot live without.

Author Blurb Valeria Luiselli
From the painful intimate violence in a suburban New England home, to racial cruelty among high school teenagers, to the US government's political and military interventionism in Latin America, Goldman's sweeping gaze runs through multiple circuits of America's violence, showing us how deeply connected they in fact are. With the exact balance of outrage and hope, Monkey Boy takes us on an eye-opening journey, full of tenderness and horror, through the often-ignored layers of this country's history. A powerful, necessary book.

Author Blurb Rivka Galchen
Francisco Goldman, one of our most brilliant political writers, is also, miraculously, a Chekhov of the heart. This novel is wild, funny, and wrenching, as well as a profound act of retrieval and transformation.

Author Blurb Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn and Nora Webster
Monkey Boy is written with tenderness and emotional precision. It tells what it means to be an American, to have an identity that is nourished by many sources, including ones that are mysterious and shrouded in secrecy. It is a story of two cities?Boston and Guatemala?and an account of a man's relationship with his mother, who is evoked here in sharp and loving detail. It is a book about how we piece the past together. Goldman bridges the gap between imagination and memory with stunning lyricism and unsparing clarity.

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