I knew I probably wasn’t going to like this one very much. And I didn’t. I think it’s a rather unfortunate novel in several ways. It’s not terribly written, but it relies heavily one tricks rather than quality. It’s a novel that strikes me as oddly cynical in this marketplace, where reviews are extracted from literary peers and friends instead of earnest critics. I won’t say who, but a writer who gives all their friends five stars regardless of actual quality gave this a three and I saw that as an indictment.
Here’s a major issue with a novel like this. One, don’t take on an immensely more interesting subject (the late 1980s campus culture wars that helped usher in hybrid academic fields) if you can’t handle it.
Two, definitely don’t spend a lot of time describing the cool and interesting research topic your character is engaging with. How about do that research and write that novel?
Three, don’t have a mother character that’s way more interesting than your main character.
Anyway, the plot here is that Gloria is marrying Khalil but she doesn’t like sleeping with him. She used to sleep with this other guy who she hated, but was better in bed. Now she wants to sleep with a poet, but he’s uninterested. This sends her life into a little chaos. She is a white-passing Black woman and is close friends with mixed race brother and sister who are less conscientious about their race than she is.
There’s a lot of “human” moments in this novel that don’t make a lot of sense to me and the novel doesn’t fully support. Oddly and accidentally, it was a lot like the Zadie Smith novel I also read this weekend, but a severely anemic version.