Colson Whitehead really loves character design
... and it's the best thing about the book. There's not really a classic tension arc. The book consists of three smaller stories, in different years, slightly interwoven. But the cool thing is not really the three major stories. It's how every single side character has some kind of backstory, smaller or larger, and Colson Whitehead tells you about all of them, sometimes leading to several nested layers of time in the narration. Those little ones are the stories that really make this book a great read.