Monkey Boyby Francisco Goldman
A novel of enormous achievement, Monkey Boy tells the tale of Francisco Goldberg, a middle-aged writer who grapples with his heritage, career, and growing up Guatemalan and Jewish in America
Goldman’s first novel since his widely acclaimed, national bestselling Say Her Name (winner of the Prix Femina Etranger), 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, has been living and working in Mexico City as a journalist for over a decade, but has recently returned to New York City in hopes of “going home again.” It’s been five years since the end of his last relationship and he is falling in love again. Soon he is beckoned back to Boston by the high school girlfriend who was witness to his greatest youthful humiliations, and his mother, Yolanda, around whom his story orbits like a dark star. Backdropping this five day trip to his childhood home is the specter of Frank’s recently deceased father, Bert, an immigrant from Ukraine, volcanically tempered, pathologically abusive, yet also at times infuriatingly endearing; as well as the high school bullies who gave him the moniker “monkey boy” and his estranged, larger-than-life sister, Lexi.
Told in an open, irresistibly funny and passionate voice, this extraordinary portrait of growing up outside the dominant culture unearths the hidden cruelties in a predominantly white, working-class Boston suburb where Francisco – aka Paco, aka Frankie Gee – came of age. A crowning achievement from one of the most important American voices in the last 40 years.
“Francisco Goldman . . . Francisco Goldberg? . . . Frankie Gee!—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.”—Susan Choi
“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.”—Valeria Luiselli
“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.”—Rivka Galchen
“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.”—Colm Tóibín