What I can say with certainty is that I've never read a book quite like this before. I've seen references in other reviews describing it as magical realism, but I wouldn't categorize it as such. Then again, I'm not sure I'd have a category for it.
I'm also loathe to use the word quirky, here, because it seems to imply flighty or a criticism cloaked in an ephemeral word. But then again, I also haven't quite come up with another word that best relates to how I fell about this story and Netzer's writing.
I discovered Netzer as I suspect many have by way of her popular post 15 Ways To Stay Married For 15 Years back in early 2012. This is one of those rare articles I save because I feel it is empathic, insightful, beautiful (and really quite helpful and practical advice). When her first novel, Shine Shine Shine came out a few months later, I was inclined to want to read it but haven't yet managed. So when St. Martin's gave me the opportunity to read this novel early, I was happy to explore.
Hmmmm, I say. Hmmmm. I can't definitively say yes or no here. The characters are strange and nuanced and interesting. The storyline is disorienting and slightly cold (for me) and yet Netzer's writing can also be beautiful and quite insightful. How To Tell Toledo weaves a love story that I had much difficulty relating to, and yet at the same time I certainly related to the relationships between the main protagonists and other characters in their lives, like their mothers, or friends, or colleagues. Netzer presents and explores some ideas here that I've often questioned about whether I'm the only one to wonder, such as whether hallucinations are strictly faulty wiring or a divine gift from the gods... or an inextricable twist of both?
A nerdy love story, and I'm not sure whether the culture has reached the annex where I don't need to add the disclaimer that I mean this in a good way? There were quite a few scientific references I didn't understand, which I was okay with or went ahead and googled.
I didn't love this book... but it also made me want to read Shine Shine Shine more than I previously did. Why? I think that I was a conflicted with the quirkiness here, and yet deeply enjoyed many of Netzer's words and ideas.