This is the kind of literary fiction book I generally do not like. It's an award winning book and it's little self-important, in that it kind of has an undertone of I am a very serious piece of literature. Often, I give up on books that seem to think they are so important.
I did not give up on this one because I liked the voice of the primary narrator from the very beginning. I liked his kind of self-deprecating, "I know I'm a schmuck but I can't help it" attitude. He's pathetic, but he's a kind of a would-be nice guy. I was intrigued by the alternate narrator's sections, because of the way they were formatted: it was stream-of-consciousness narrative, that was still readable. (I often have trouble reading stream-of-consciousness.)
Usually I don't like books about disagreeable characters, but these were not bad people. They are just such hopelessly damaged people who have lived dysfunctional lives so long, they don't know how to be normal, "nice" people. And their struggles with their pain and grief make it impossible for them to be "good" people.
The writing made me hang with the story long after the subject matter would have let me give up on it, and then, the thing that made it finally work for me was the tiny glimmer of hope at the end. The reader knows that these people are probably hopeless cases, ....but...
maybe (just possibly maybe) after they drag themselves up off that beach, they'll manage to love each other enough to heal someday.