Tom Wolfe brings his signature style to the racially diverse world of Miami in his newest novel Back to Blood. Following Cuban cop Nestor Camacho’s riotous exploits, the story expands into an ensemble look at the various ethnic groups and social classes that populate this city. By the end of the novel, you’ll be prepared for your own Miami vacation—that is, if you want to eat pastelitos, visit restaurants frequented by Russian mobsters, or attend a regatta orgy.
The first third of the book is comprised of a series of portraits of the various characters that populate the city (and the story). They are all very loosely connected, if at all, and can make reading the novel feel taxing (especially as the writing begins to feel excessively repetitious in exploring the minutiae of this world). But once Wolfe gets into the main narrative, all of the setup feels worthwhile (what else would you expect from a 700-page novel?). The final two-thirds are a compulsively readable adventure into the lives of these characters.
Wolfe’s writing style oozes onomatopoeia mixed with internal character monologues, really setting it apart from anything else you’ll have ever read. It provides a sharp contrast between the clashing social classes and ethnicities while also providing relevant cultural commentary ranging from YouTube fame to the snobbery of the art world. Even someone thoroughly obsessed with New York City (as I am) could derive enjoyment from this almost-foreign American city.