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The Sound of Things Falling: A Novel Hardcover – August 1, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (August 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594487480
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594487484
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (214 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, August 2013: Juan Gabriel Vasquez will draw comparisons to other major Latin American icons. But while the influence of Roberto Bolaño, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Gabriel García Márquez are present throughout his second novel, The Sound of Things Falling, he is a unique literary talent. Translated from Spanish (and exceptionally well, at that), Vasquez moves swiftly and subtly, opening in Bogota, Colombia, reflecting on the mid-’70s when the country was being taken over by drug lords and cartels (fueled by the U.S.’s hunger for cocaine). Law professor Antonio Yammara finds his fate intertwined with that of a shady ex-pilot named Laverde. But Things Falling is so much more than a drug story. This is a sensory novel. Antonio wrestles with the way he interprets by his surroundings, by how the external world affects the internal. “[I]t’s always disconcerting to discover, when it’s another person who brings us the revelation, the slight or complete lack of control we have over our own experience.” The Sound of Things Falling does so much at once: it’s a novel about how the U.S. dangerously influences Latin America, how the present never escapes the past, and how fragile our relationships--romantic and familial--can be. --Kevin Nguyen

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. That story is to blame, declares a character in Colombian author Vasquez's latest novel (after The Secret History of Costaguana). Indeed, this book is an exploration of the ways in which stories profoundly impact lives. Around 1996, when murder and bloody mayhem fueled by the drug trade were commonplace in Bogotá, the young law professor Antonio Yammara befriends enigmatic stranger Ricardo Laverde. One night, assassins on motorbikes open fire on the two, killing Laverde and seriously wounding Yammara. Conflicted and at a loss to understand the damage Laverde has wrought, Yammara looks into his life story. Yammara suffers from crippling psychic and physical wounds as a result of the shooting, and his investigation takes him to Laverde's shabby Bogotá apartment, where he receives a gruesome clue from the grieving landlady. Yammara eventually finds Laverde's daughter Maya, a beekeeper who lives in the Colombian countryside. She shows Yammara photos and letters she's collected about the father she never knew. Together they lose themselves in stories of Laverde's childhood; of Maya's American mother, Elaine Fritts; and of Elaine and Laverde's love affair. Vasquez allows the story to become Elaine's, and as the puzzle of Laverde is pieced together, Yammara comes to realize just how thoroughly the stories of these other people are part of his own. Agent: Casanovas & Lynch Agencia Literaria (Spain). (Aug.)

More About the Author

Author Juan Gabriel Vasquez is a critically acclaimed Colombian writer, translator, and award-winning author. Educated in Barcelona and in Paris at the Sorbonne, he now teaches in Barcelona, where he lives with his wife and twin daughters.

Customer Reviews

Beautifully written and wonderful story.
Janice Coleman
I also felt that the book meandered a bit too much, and never quite got back on course.
Larry Hoffer
The story was convoluted and the characters were never fully developed.
E. Young

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

145 of 153 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My, oh my - what an incredible novel. This is the kind of novel that made me brush everything aside and read voraciously, devouring every single word and dreading arriving at the end. Yes, it's that good!

Set in Bogota, Colombia, our narrator, Antonio, becomes twinned to an enigmatic and shadowy ex-pilot named Ricardo Laverde, whom he meets in a Bogota billiard hall. Ricardo has been imprisoned for many years for reasons that take time to be revealed. (The refrain is: "He must have done something.") Antonio is with Ricardo during a drive-by motorbike shooting that ends one life and destroys the other.

What follows is one of the most harrowing descriptions of PTSD I've read as Antonio lives in terror of everything. The only salvation for him is to uncover the facts behind the life of the mysterious "ghosted" Ricardo and Colombia's ignoble past.

That is only the early foundation of this book. It touches on many themes: the tentacles of the drug business in Colombia and how one person's actions can have a boomerang effect on so many others. How it feels to live with a "terrible awareness of my vulnerability" - where planes fall from the sky, where bullets fell the innocent, where memories burst out of nowhere to transform and paralyze those who live through it.
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96 of 109 people found the following review helpful By DanD VINE VOICE on July 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Juan Gabriel Vasquez's THE SOUND OF THINGS FALLING is an intriguing, if slow, look into Columbia's past and present. It begins with a story of an escaped hippo--a fugitive from a zoo belonging to drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. What fallows is an investigation into Columbia's recent, violent past, figure-headed by Antonio Yammara, who once saw an acquaintance of his get gunned down right before his eyes.

There's a lot going for THINGS FALLING: lush prose, a rich backstory, and a truly interesting subject matter. However, instead of getting lost in the prose, the reader often hits a brick wall--a points, this feels more like thinly-disguised journalism. It's as though Vasquez either couldn't decide what to write (fiction or nonfiction), or chose to create a hybrid of the two. (Most likely, the latter.) While the idea is interesting, the book may have been better if the nonfiction accents were either toned down, or enhanced (i.e., a solid work of nonfiction). As is, this is a novel for some, but not all. Those who sink their teeth into it, however, will certainly come away with something worthwhile.
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82 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Leslie N. Patino on August 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Juan Gabriel Vásquez's "The Sound of Things Falling" is epic, haunting and beautifully written. I read an article about it in "Time" magazine on July 31st, one day before the novel's English release. Within twenty-four hours, I had read the entire book.

"Falling," as some people have referred to it in English, is the story of Antonio Yammara, a 29-year-old, university law professor in Bogotá, Colombia who has always excelled intellectually. His comfortable, carefree world is soon blown away. First, a former student turned lover announces she's pregnant and carrying his child. At the same time, Antonio, who plays billiards to unwind, has sort of befriended an enigmatic older player. Ricardo Laverde has shared a few intriguing bits of his life, mostly in a woozy state over drinks. One afternoon, as the men walk along a street after leaving the billiards hall, they become the targets of a drive-by motorcycle shooting. Ricardo is killed. Antonio is seriously wounded--physically and mentally. For Antonio, several years of PTSD follow and a long journey to discover the secrets of his acquaintance. The story covers some eighty years of real-life Colombian history and the personal lives of several generations of fictional families.

To fully appreciate "Falling," it helps to have some knowledge of Colombian history and culture and of the tremendous impact of the drug cartels over the last half century. If you don't have that, Wikipedia can pretty well fill in the gaps. In 2011, I spent a week in Bogotá. I visited bookstores and asked for current best-selling novels (in Spanish). I read two of three books I bought and the third one--most highly praised by the sales' assistant--languished in the "someday" pile. Guess what it was?
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on August 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"The day of his death, at the beginning of 1996, Ricardo Laverde had spent the morning walking the narrow sidewalks of La Candelaria, in the center of Bogota, between old houses with clay roof tiles and unread marble plaques with summaries of historic events, and around one in the afternoon he showed up at the billiards club on 14th Street, ready to play a couple of games with some of the regulars."

The final minutes of Ricardo Laverde's life are about to have a profound effect on Antonio Yammara. As a young college instructor, Antonio's life is good. Or at least it's as good as it can be in the troubled South American city. He has a job he enjoys, a pleasant apartment, and the company of women when he wants it. But in the seconds it takes for Ricardo to die, Antonio's good fortune takes a devastating tumble.

Why did this happen? Antonio realizes that he has little idea of his friend Ricardo's past. With the intimacy of death weighing him down, Antonio embarks on a journey to understand, at least a little bit, how Ricardo ended up dying as he did. He travels not only physically, from Bogota, but from the present day into a long-ago time, when Pablo Escobar ruled the drug trade. But could his friend really have been involved in that dark, twisted and violent part of society? Antonio finds it hard to believe.

Through research, talks with family members, letters --- really, everything he can dig up --- he turns Ricardo into a living, breathing soul once again. Antonio gets to know the man as he never had a chance to when he was alive. The people whose lives Ricardo touched, the people he left behind, even the people he hurt, all help Antonio work through his own personal demons. And he has many where once he had none.
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