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Come Together, Fall Apart Hardcover – April 6, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The characters in this eloquent, muted debut collection of eight stories plus the title novella are eager to enjoy life, though thwarted by the inimical conditions of a Panama in transition after the collapse of Noriega's rule. The young couple in the first story, "Yanina," embody a sweetly turbulent and conflicted relationship: the title character, wounded by the marital infidelity of her father and later of her godfather, asks her well-meaning but still uncertain boyfriend, René, to marry her 45 times. "Ashes," which first appeared in The New Yorker, tracks the unraveling effects of a mother's death on her daughter, Mireya, already adrift in troubled relationships and endangered by her arduous job as a meat cutter. Characters reel from family rupture and dysfunction: the teenaged Maria in "Mercury," for example, is torn between her home in New Jersey, where her parents are divorcing, and Panama City, where she is sent to visit aging grandparents she wants desperately to impress with her Spanish. The eponymous final novella, set in late 1989 on the eve of the American invasion of Panama, affectingly reveals a country "teetering on the edge of a cliff" through the fate of a family forced to leave their ancestral Panama City home. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In eight short stories and a novella, newcomer Henriuez creates a vision of Panama that is at once sweepingly realistic and subtly hallucinogenic. Water imagery abounds, and like water, these tales are transparent yet weighty, buoyant yet crushing. Henriquez evokes a scruffy landscape and a shabby Panama City where the heat is debilitating, life is precarious, and relationships are skewed. Fathers are absent, dangerous, or depressed. Young women scramble to hold on to crummy jobs and unreliable lovers. People have trouble expressing their feelings, and political unrest is driving everyone crazy. In the ravishing title novella, a family faces eviction while Noriega is under siege, and the country braces for an American invasion that promises to be both military and corporate. It is left to young boys and girls to try to hold their households together--literally, in one surreal tale. Losses great and small are common currency, and yet these fluid stories abound in beauty, irony, and magic. Like Junot Diaz and Daniel Alarcon, Henriquez is an immensely gifted young writer who evokes the spirit of a struggling land and the people who love it beyond reason. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (April 6, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594489157
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594489150
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,997,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Cristina Henríquez is the author of the novel The Book of Unknown Americans, forthcoming in June 2014, as well as the novel The World in Half, and the short story collection Come Together, Fall Apart, which was a New York Times Editors' Choice selection. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, American Scholar, Glimmer Train, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, AGNI, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, where she was named one of "Fiction's New Luminaries." She is also the recipient of an Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation Award. Henríquez lives in Illinois.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 15 customer reviews
It is a beautifully written book and Henriquez writes with a fierce sincerity.
L. Bring
Yet somehow the young still hope for a better future for them and their offspring whether it is in Panama City, Gamboa in the rainforest or New Jersey.
Harriet Klausner
A world full of life-like characters with real flaws, ambitions and circumstances.
JZ

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By L. Bring on April 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
COME TOGETHER, FALL APART begins with a marriage proposal. And just like that you are dropped inside a world both unlike and like your own. Worlds filled with empty appliance shops, humid beaches, dying loved ones, and unplanned pregnancies. It is a beautifully written book and Henriquez writes with a fierce sincerity. And when reading her you feel as if you could bump into any one of her narrators around the corner or plop down beside them in a coffee shop (even though her stories take place in Panama).

Cristina Henriquez has a brave, artful voice. Ultimately, the story Henriquez bravely tells is what it is to be human and the love we all hold on to. The book begins with a marriage proposal and ends with the only thing that matters, the love we share, the love we give away: "And I tell my story----about my mother and my father and me----and how in that story was all that I knew about love." This is an unusually smart and beautiful book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Diana C. Spechler on April 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Cristina Henriquez's debut is astonishing---honest, vivid, and completely unique. This book is peppered with mind-blowing writing, including the description of a fireworks display in the first story, Yanina ("High in the sky, the fireworks sprouted arms and fell, breaking apart in the air") and a line from Ashes, which first appeared in the New Yorker: "Memories are thin, watery and fragile like gas rising off the pavement on the hottest days." Perhaps even more impressive than the writing itself are this young author's insights into human relationships; she is particularly skillful at writing about longing. The grand finale to the eight stories in this book is the novella, Come Together, Fall Apart, a heart-breaking depiction of life in Panama in the days before Noriega's collapse. If you read one collection this year, be sure it is this one.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Jewell on May 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
this is really a wonderful collection of stories. it is not written for any particular group or age and i have no doubt that anyone who reads it will be glad that they did. while it deals with politics there are no political agendas being pushed and while the stories are all set in panama, it is not a bunch of stories about panama. they are about people and relationships...friends, families, strangers and all of the wonderful and awful things that come with these relationships. the characters are written warmly and richly and the stories run the gamut of emotions without indulging in one for too long.

i was curious what other people thought of this book after i read it and i was surprised that i could not find ONE negative comment. not one. considering how much people like to point out flaws these days, i found that to be exceptional. there is really no good reason why you should not give this collection a read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By JZ on April 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This set of short stories whisked me away to another world. A world full of life-like characters with real flaws, ambitions and circumstances.

Each story takes place in a seemingly distant Panama with imagery that is fantastic. Cristina took us through a fantastic journey on her first published book. I could not put down this book and found myself losing sleep in order to find out what happened to the love-able and sometimes not at all likeable characters.

This book really could appeal to anyone, regardless of age, gender, or cultural background.

I cannot wait to read this young author's creative burst.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By N8PM on July 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book was absolutely wonderful. Through her understated prose and organic characters, Henriquez creates an incredibly poignant picture of Panama, in both its beauty and its turmoil. She is at her absolute best in the stories "Ashes" and "Mercury," but each piece is spellbinding.

I appreciated that the Panamanian setting is not overwrought, so that the reader isn't really presented a collection of stories about Panama. Henriquez writes about relationships. Her description of Panama is nevertheless clear and gripping, and makes for a truly enjoyable book.
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Format: Paperback
Cristina Henríquez's moving debut collection centers on contemporary Panama where Noriega's shadow offers a disconcerting backdrop as ordinary people struggle for love and meaning. With eight short stories and a novella, Henríquez demonstrates that such struggle doesn't always translate to defeat though sometimes it comes perilously close. In "Beautiful," one of the more disquieting and powerful pieces in this collection, the young protagonist begins her story mid-sentence: "And then that summer when the heart felt like wading through molasses and the streets hummed in a desperate sadness all day and all night, God came down from heaven and paid a visit to our family in two ways: My father returned home and my uncle got rich." A divine visit, however, does not guarantee happiness: the prodigal father eventually preys on his daughter. But ultimately, she imposes her own kind of justice on the abuser. "Chasing Birds" brings us tourists (a married couple) struggling with their relationship as they visit Panama. The husband is more interested in bird watching than romancing his disaffected wife. The result is not surprising but nonetheless heartbreaking on many levels. The title novella weaves together two strands of narrative: the U.S. invasion of Panama and a young boy's unrequited love for a girl who is more interested in his best friend. Henríquez's storytelling is at its most potent in this longer story where she seamlessly blends the political with the personal. Taken together, these stories from the young Henríquez demonstrate a fully-matured and well-honed artistic vision of the human condition. [This review first appeared in the MultiCultural Review.]
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