Some of the strengths of the book were the fact that it opened up a realm of possibilities as no one had published a work by a Mexican author in English prior to this one. It did not receive great notice after its first publishing but was better received after its growth and appreciation by the critical environment.
The novel deals powerfully with the difficulties of life as an immigrant to the United States. The language of the novel is very formal and correct English which some critics have said smacks of a willingness to assimilate and forget or abandon Mexican culture. The action of the novel addresses this theme as well as the loss of culture, family traditions, even the traditional way of understanding life is a constant theme throughout the book for many of the characters.
Another strength of the novel is its exploration of the question of what it means to be a man. Because Richard moves away from the culture of fighting and more typical manliness, the novel explores how he can find meaning in writing and other activities considered to be less manly or even "womanly."