It started very slow, and didn't make much sense. It was more like a series of short stories--each time one got me enthralled, it would change to a different story. Consequently, it took me a little while before I started to enjoy the book. Some of the problem may have been caused by trying to read it during my lunch hour, so I would lose momentum. Once I retired, the book improved. I don't think it was a coincidence.
After about a hundred pages or so, the book started to come together. It was about a con man and his family of con-people. It spanned decades, and I love how the history of the times was woven into the story.
In fact, "woven" is the word that describes the book the best. Oates carefully weaves the stories of the lives of her characters with each other's lives even when they are far apart.
I didn't like any of the characters; which often dooms a book in my mind, but that wasn't the case, here. They were all so fascinating and complex, that though I didn't like them, I didn't dislike them, either. Instead, I wanted to go along in the journey of their lives to see how it ended.