Vega Yunqué (The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow Into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle, 2004, etc.) mixes a coming-of-age story with multigenerational saga.
Tall, handsome, sensitive, a natural athlete, Kenny Romero is just about too good to be true. His girlfriend, Claudia, is equally tall, handsome and athletic—and, as a nurse-in-training, she’s a hardworking nurturer, too. These teenagers are the only innocents in this modern Gothic, and their lives are fatefully intertwined with the dark secrets of Kenny’s Irish–Puerto Rican family. A native New Yorker, Kenny spends his vacations working on a dairy farm upstate. Claudia is his summer sweetheart, and their second season together is an idyll of young love and sexual discovery. Everything changes, though, when a cow about to calf wanders off the farm. Unable to accept his employer’s assurances that the heifer and her offspring will come home, Kenny sets out one night to find her. The story of Kenny’s quest for the missing cow begins where it ends—the reader learns that something terrible has happened to Kenny without learning how or when it happened—and unfolds in tiny flashes embedded within a larger, labyrinthine narrative about Kenny’s family. Vega Yunqué may have crafted this distinctive architecture in an effort to create mystery and suspense; what he achieves, however, is merely disorienting and singularly anticlimactic, despite having all the features of a fine drama—forbidden romances, a disgraced nun, an illegitimate child, violent crime. Life-altering events occur, and devastating secrets are revealed with all the feeling of newspaper reportage. Vega Yunqué’s narrative voice seems to come from a place far removed from the action and the characters.
Highly descriptive without being engaging or enlightening.