Many challenges confront a couple trying to survive in the Big Apple in this multigenerational novel about love tested.
Good to know
When Fly and Stela meet in 21st Century New York City, it seems like fate. He's a Black American musician from a mixed-religious background who knows all about heartbreak. She's a Catholic science teacher from the Caribbean, looking for lasting love. But are they meant to be? The answer goes back decades—all the way to their parents' earliest loves.
Vibrant and emotionally riveting, Monster in the Middle moves across decades, from the U.S. to the Virgin Islands to Ghana and back again, to show how one couple's romance is intrinsically influenced by the family lore and love stories that preceded their own pairing. What challenges and traumas must this new couple inherit, what hopes and ambitions will keep them moving forward? Exploring desire and identity, religion and class, passion and obligation, the novel posits that in order to answer the question "who are we meant to be with?" we must first understand who we are and how we came to be.
Monster in the Middle
The lights said motel. And there wasn’t a bulb missing. Not that it would have mattered if it said OTEL. Or MOTE. Not in all that rain. Not after all they had been through. The earthquake, the road, each other. They had avoided crossing the bay altogether. The Bay Bridge had collapsed, but they didn’t know that for sure then. They drove south, down into the righteous belly, the holy thighs. Saint Mateo, Saint José, Saint Luis, Saint Maria, Saint Barbara, Saint Clarita. All the good men and women giving their names to those sad cities. They stopped in the City of Angels. They took the 10 through San Bernardino. Drove through Cathedral City just for the name. Stopped outside Phoenix, where he dipped a wrench into the engine and made the car purr. A day later in Las Cruces. The crosses. There they held each other in the car while Soul II Soul streamed in through the car’s CD player. They stayed on the 10. Ten became a holy number. They drove across Texas almost without stopping. But then they stopped. In Saint Antonio. Drove that city until they found the Black people. Slept on a grocer’s floor. Bags of rice, their pillows. Then they started back north. “We got to avoid Louisiana,” Gary said to her. “And Mississippi.” It had been a mission until Texas. A sacred thing, a quest.
After Saint Antonio, the road was all Eloise dreamed. The long road unstopping. They were driving into hell, it felt like. It was getting closer to winter. And yet they were getting hotter. They abandoned the 10, took I?35 to meet Saint Marcos. Avoided Dallas. Followed an off-?road just to sight some water called Palestine. Then up and up, into Arkansas. The sign to a city read Hope. Eloise held on to that image. The next stop was supposed to be Charlotte. Then they would decide. North to New York or south to Miami. Either way, a boat ride to paradise. But then the rain.
Why I love it
Author, Craft in the Real World
Tiphanie Yanique is one of our finest contemporary fiction writers, constantly making magic happen on the page. She is able to work between the most specific of details—a new mother's "breasts hard as two bags of rocks," a cop like a "melancholy Charlie Brown"—and the larger forces of a constantly challenging and transforming world. Monster in the Middle, her latest novel, traverses decades and hemispheres to tell the love story of Fly and Stela.
Yanique is also a master of form and technique. In Monster in the Middle, you'll encounter multiple points of view, multiple story shapes, including a critical take on Joseph Campbell's monomyth. What Yanique knows in telling this love story is that there is no hero’s journey that belongs to only one hero, and there is no love story that belongs to only two lovers. People and places and time and land and objects are all connected. Love takes much more than just a flash of attraction, it takes—first—survival, and then a good deal of circumstance, history out of one’s hands, in order to grab hold of opportunity when it finally comes.
In this book, you will find all of the messiness and self-deception and shame and joy of coming to know oneself, as Fly and Stela not only learn how to love each other but also come to embrace the possibility of being more than who they are on their own.
Member ratings (374)
This book is gorgeous, creating generational nesting dolls for the characters, giving their histories and impacts of those histories. She deals deftly with the pandemic in a fresh and empathetic way.
Stunning literary exploration of the trauma and history we each bring to a relationship. Loved all of the characters and the richness of the different voices.
San Luis Obispo, CA