At some point as I devoured this book, the phrase "Great American Novel" lodged in my brain and would not leave.
I don't believe in a the Great American Novel; the phrase is nearly always applied to works by white male writers whose books are thought to move in broad sweeps and detailed realism but which only reflect the privileges and limitations of their makers.
But if there WAS a great American novel, wouldn't it actually sweep--across two lives, across three continents and an ocean, across textual forms? Wouldn't it reflect the messiness and beauty of sex and the intrusiveness and usefulness of technology, America's two greatest obsessions? Wouldn't it see its own privilege even as it critiques America's blind spots? Place America in a global conversation, place its castes and cultures in comparison to others? Wouldn't it be at once lyrical and elevated and mundane and bleak and optimistic?
So maybe this long, winding, desperate, gorgeous story of belonging and romance and higher education and growing older and not necessarily better is it.