March 2024

Say Hello to My Little Friend

By Jennine Capó Crucet
Review by
Say Hello to My Little Friend limns the catastrophic life of Ismael “Izzy” Reyes, a Pitbull impersonator turned wannabe Tony Montana, as he tries and fails to find his way in a sinking Miami.
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Cuban literature, from the island and from its diaspora, has always been precise and powerful, taking a clear yet dreamy-eyed look at humanity. Jennine Capo Crucet’s new novel, Say Hello to My Little Friend, follows in this lineage, limning the catastrophic life of Ismael “Izzy” Reyes as he tries and fails to find his way in a sinking Miami. At the beginning of the novel, Izzy receives a cease and desist from Pitbull (aka Mr. 305) for doing unauthorized impressions of him around town, leaving Izzy at a loss of job and identity. He finds inspiration in Al Pacino’s Tony Montana from the movie Scarface (which he doesn’t actually watch until a few chapters later). With new wind in his sails, and a sidekick like Tony Montana’s Manolo found in his old high school buddy Rudy, Izzy tries to mold life into what he wants it to be: wealth, power and big booty women. Meanwhile, on the other side of Miami in a too-small Seaquarium tank, Lolita the orca senses the water level rising. She and Izzy are linked by their tragic orphan origin stories, and when the two meet, they share a telepathic message that transforms both of their fates.

Like many immigrant stories, Say Hello to My Little Friend is centered on transformation. Not only does Izzy transform into someone else for a living, but his entire life has been a process of transforming. Though he was raised in Miami, he never feels Floridian, much less American, and after having to take ESL (English as a second language) classes in school, his identity-formation has been constantly frustrated. There is something quixotic in watching Izzy spin himself and those around him into remakes of culture, but this, too, is true about the immigrant experience, which Capo Crucet details with breathtaking precision.

Capo Crucet’s writing strikes a balance between contemporary Spanglish (specifically Miamian), slang and achingly poetic descriptions. But Capo Crucet’s powers do not stop at this alchemy; she also has a rare knack for metanarrative, a skill that allows readers to think about Izzy’s story as a story without ruining its intimacy. Take one of the narrator’s interjections, asking readers to recall Melville’s Moby Dick. It not only grounds the antics of the novel in a classic tale of hubris but also emphasizes the delusional and naive nature of Izzy, allowing us to see him as a victim of fate. As Izzy creates himself again and again, readers are made aware of what stories make up a life.

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Say Hello to My Little Friend

Say Hello to My Little Friend

By Jennine Capó Crucet
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9781668023327

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