The four daughters go home for Dad's birthday every year. Every. Year.
And they never bring their husbands or boyfriends. The husbands are a little annoyed about this.
Every year, their dad gives them envelopes full of money. After all, "the revolution in the old country" has failed, and now it's every man for himself (1.2.7).
Revolution? What revolution? Why, we're so glad you asked! Because that brings us to A Very Shmoopy Introduction to Dominican History, Part II.
Back in the day, when the father of the four girls lived in the Dominican Republic, the country was ruled by a dictator called General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina.
Trujillo was otherwise known as "The Goat," or "Chapita," meaning, basically "Bottle cap." Why Chapita? Because he was so obsessed with looking like a military hero, he decorated his uniform with dozens of medals. The medals were pretty much meaningless—like bottle caps—but they sure were shiny. And that's what people called him when they were being nice.
T-Bag ruled the Dominican Republic with an iron fist for four decades, from 1930 to 1961. During this time he murdered and imprisoned political opponents, censored the media, and even massacred about 20,000 people, just because he didn't like Haitians very much.
Needless to say, this genocidal maniac had to watch his back, because plenty of people wanted to revolt against his oppressive regime. In the novel, the father of the four girls was one of those would-be revolutionaries.
In 1961, T-Bag was finally assassinated. The country rejoiced. We are talking literal dancing in the streets.
To celebrate the anniversary of T-Bag's death, Dominicans even invented a new holiday, which they called "la fiesta del chivo," or "the feast of the goat."
But guess what? After a brief flirtation with a democratically elected leftist government, and a much-resented U.S. invasion, the Dominican Republic was back to having an oppressive, right wing, authoritarian leader. This time it was Joaquín Balaguer (remember him?).
Balaguer was basically Trujillo's class pet, so let's call him Mini-T. Mini-T headed the Dominican government for much of the next two decades. It's easy to understand why many Dominicans felt the revolution against T-Bag had failed.
Whew. That brings us to the end of A Very Shmoopy Introduction to Dominican History, Part II.
Where were we? Oh yeah. Dad's a little depressed, because his entire life's work to abolish scary authoritarian leaders in his country has failed. So he might as well spoil his daughters.
This is the first year in a while that Sofía (the youngest) has been on speaking terms with her father. Chalk it up to the birth of her second baby, the father's first male heir.
The grandpa really loves this kid. Not only is he a male heir and named after his grandpa, but he's also pink-skinned and blue-eyed, like his German father. From the grandfather's point of view, light skin means there is "good blood" in the family.
Papi's sexism is really starting to make Sofía angry. What about Sofía's first child, a girl? Papi was never this excited about her.
The three eldest daughters are strong, independent, professional women with plenty of education. But they're still afraid to stand up to their father.
Sofía is the youngest, and she's a little different than her sisters. She dropped out of college, for starters. And she's really confident around men.
So here's how she met her husband, Otto:
She and her boyfriend (not Otto) go to Colombia on vacay, because they can't have a sleepover at home in New York. After they sleep together, Sofía loses interest in her boy toy. They break up in Colombia.
A couple of days later, Sofía meets a German tourist (Otto) on the street, and they fall in love.
When she gets back home to New York, Sofía's dad can tell something's up. He goes through her drawers and finds love letters from the German man.
Papi confronts Sofía, and all h-e-double-hockey-sticks breaks loose. He calls Sofía a whore, and accuses her of ruining the family's good name—his name.
Sofía finally stands up for herself. Her love life is none of Papi's business. She packs her things and leaves home for good.
Where does Sofía go? Why to Germany, of course! She shows up on her lover's doorstep and proposes marriage.
And that's how Sofía and Otto got married. The end.
Papi stops speaking to Sofía for months. And he still seems a little tense around her.
So it is a big deal that Sofía has managed to convince Papi and everyone else to hold his seventieth birthday party at her house this year.
And get this—she's even managed to get the husbands an invite.
But what Sofía most wants is to be friends with her dad again. Maybe if she throws the perfect party, he'll forgive her for everything.
So this party has to be epic. A band, balloons, food, buttons that say The World's Greatest Dad. No expense is too great. No cake is too chocolatey. No party favor is too cheesy.
And the party is a success. Lots of presents. An awesome band. Sofia is the hostess with the mostest.
During musical chairs, the fun starts to get out of hand. The third daughter (the divorced one) sits on men's laps, and the father gets his disapproving face on.
In fact, as it gets later and later, the father gets grumpier and grumpier. Uh-oh. Someone's feeling like a crankypants.
Papi is feeling really sorry for himself. He's going to die, and everyone will forget all about him. Whine, whine whine...
Um, and wine, wine, wine. Papi's had a bit too much to drink.
The solution is "Quick! Distract him! Let's play a party game!"
The third daughter blindfolds her dad and has him sit in the middle of the room. He pretends like he doesn't understand what's happening... but Papi knows what's up.
The girls tell him to guess who it is who's kissing him. Then they take turns giving him a peck on the cheek.
Papi is excited, and giggles like a schoolboy. He's a little bit drunk.
He guesses that it's Mami doing the kissing, or one of the daughters, every time. Papi never guesses any of the other women in the room, because that would be "disrespectful" (2.60).
This game between the dad and his daughters is getting disturbingly sexual.
After a few more rounds, Sofía notices that her father never guesses her name. Carla, Sandra, Yoyo... he says their names over and over. But she's not on the list.
After all her hard work to throw him this party, he still hasn't forgiven her! That's it. Sofía is going to make her father remember her, if it's the last thing she does.
Sofía sits on Papi's lap and gives him a kiss to knock all the other kisses out of the water. She sticks her tongue in his ear and swirls it around. Then, for good measure, she nibbles on his ear lobe.
If you're a little creeped out at this point, you're not alone. This is definitely venturing into incest territory.
This is not a daughterly peck. This is a big, wet, sex bomb of a kiss. In her dad's ear. In front of everyone. Uh-oh. And, um, gross.
Papi sits up, and he's not smiling anymore. He tears off the blindfold and glares at each of his daughters.
But when he gets to the youngest, his gaze falters.
Sofía is wearing the same brilliant, serene expression that she had when she stood up to her father the first time. This girl is a rock.