“Full of rebellious comedy and vitality… Goldman’s autobiographical immersion answers the urgent cry of memory… [He] is a natural storyteller―funny, intimate, sarcastic, all-noticing.” ―James Wood, New Yorker
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.
Praise for Monkey Boy:
“…a story that travels relentlessly between a difficult present and an unfinished past… In this case, bringing together the child and the seasoned adult may involve a kind of spiritual revolution, a casting off of the past by a reliving of it, a turn in the middle years toward a different way of being… he must change his life… At the heart of the novel’s own tenacity and optimism is Frankie’s mother, his mamita, Yolanda Montejo… her gaiety and crooked, defiant spirit… “Monkey Boy” 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. “—James Wood, The New Yorker
“Francisco Goldman’s new novel, Monkey Boy… is positively boiling over with original metaphors and insights… he’s a writer of real force and originality… with rare vitality and humor… This book is about all these women, and how alive they are, but not just as presences who appear and speak for themselves. It’s also about how vivid these women are in the mind, and in the interior life, of the narrator… a connoisseur of female strength and eccentricity.” ―Rachel Kushner, Lithub
“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… the seriousness of these topics is counterbalanced by Goldman’s knack for beautiful language, straightforward prose and sense of humor… 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.”–Gabino Iglesias, San Francisco Chronicle
“Masterful… For Goldman… the autobiographical novel isn’t the last puff of a dying genre but a form through which to consider the competing moral and aesthetic demands of the real and the imagined… Monkey Boy is a fascinating hybrid… tightly, almost symmetrically structured, concerned from beginning to end with the possibility, and transformative power, of love…Monkey Boy doesn’t jettison fiction for nonfiction, the artificial for the real, but considers the truths of both. The novel is dead; long live the novel.” ―Anthony Domestico, Commonweal
“Here the author of the achingly beautiful Say Her Name takes center-stage in an enthralling autofiction…A tour de force reminiscent of Susan Choi’s Trust Exercise.” ―O Magazine
“Irresistible… Convincing intimacy illuminates Monkey Boy, which, despite exposing historical, generational, familial denial and horror, ultimately proves to be a beguiling, surprisingly droll portrait of an unsettled middle-aged man (still) searching for love and (self-)acceptance.”―Shelf Awareness
“Goldman fuses autobiography and invention to create fiction of nearly nuclear intensity… 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.”―Donna Seaman, Booklist, starred review
“The warmth and humanity of Goldman’s storytelling are impossible to resist.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Captivating…Goldman’s direct, intimate writing alone is worth the price of admission.” ―Publishers Weekly
“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