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Monster in the Middle by Tiphanie Yanique

Literary fiction

Monster in the Middle

by Tiphanie Yanique

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Quick take

Many challenges confront a couple trying to survive in the Big Apple in this multigenerational novel about love tested.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Buzzy

    Buzzy

  • Illustrated icon, Marriage_Issues

    Marriage issues

  • Illustrated icon, Immigration

    Immigration

  • Illustrated icon, Music

    Music

Synopsis

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.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Monster in the Middle.

Monster in the Middle

OAKLAND GOMORRAH

1.

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.

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Why I love it

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 (401)

  • Erin W.

    Montgomery Village, MD

    This book somehow was and wasn’t what I expected. I love to see people as they really are and how they make decisions. Can’t wait to read more from this author. Soul wrenching and hopeful. Brilliant.

  • Marguerite W.

    Pittsburgh, PA

    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.

  • Roberta S.

    Milwaukee, WI

    Romance between present day couple is connected to love stories that came before them. Diverse cultures and locations set this story of multi generational love and how it affects who we are together.

  • Kailah G.

    Louisville, KY

    I couldn't have started my very first B. O. T. M. read off any better. I loved it from the beginning to the end. Normally don't read literary fiction but the cover drew me in. It was full of life.

  • William T.

    Dallas, TX

    This was a strong novel that was excellent with voice and its interrogation of what we inherit. The poetic language was well done, and there was a surprising amount of humor throughout.

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Literary fiction
View all
Real Americans
Wellness
Margo’s Got Money Troubles
Same As It Ever Was
Annie Bot
Mercury
True Biz
The Husbands
The Lady Waiting
The Other Valley
Hard by a Great Forest
Good Material
The Bullet Swallower
Alice Sadie Celine
Let Us Descend
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
Banyan Moon
Shark Heart
Transcendent Kingdom
Hello Beautiful
Dominicana
What's Mine and Yours
The Unsettled
Ask Again, Yes
Vladimir
Infinite Country
The Prophets
Normal People
The Verifiers
Salvage the Bones
The Many Daughters of Afong Moy
I Have Some Questions for You
Black Buck
The History of Love
Age of Vice
Paper Names
The Light Pirate
The Secret History
The Kite Runner
Memorial
The Half Moon
Happiness Falls
The Gifted School
The Death of Vivek Oji
The Knockout Queen
Little Monsters
Yerba Buena
Beautiful World, Where Are You
Free Food for Millionaires
A Burning
The Mothers
The Water Dancer
Small Country
The Sympathizer
Fleishman Is in Trouble
Lot
An American Marriage
The Animators
The Leavers
The Mars Room
Exit West
The Windfall
White Fur
Woman No. 17
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
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Rainbirds
A Ladder to the Sky
Golden Child
The Goldfinch
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P
& Sons
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