Toward the end of the novel, Yammara comments that Maya wrinkles her brow “like someone who’s on the verge of understanding...

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THE SOUND OF THINGS FALLING

An odd coincidence leads Antonio Yammara, a law professor and narrator of this novel from Latin American author Vásquez (The Informers, 2009, etc.), deep into the mystery of personality, both his own and especially that of Ricardo Laverde, a casual acquaintance of Yammara before he was gunned down on the streets of Bogotá.

The catalyst for memory here is perhaps unique in the history of the novel, for Yammara begins by recounting an anecdote involving a hippopotamus that had escaped from a zoo established in Colombia’s Magdalena Valley by the drug baron Pablo Escobar. After the hippo is shot, Yammara is taken back 13 years to his acquaintance with Laverde, a pilot involved in drug running. Yammara is a youngish professor of law in Bogotá, and, generally bored, he spends his nights bedding his students and playing billiards. Engaged in the latter activity, Yammara meets Laverde without knowing his background—for example, that Laverde had just been released from a 19-year prison stint for drug activity. A short time later, Yammara is with Laverde when the drug runner is murdered, and Yammara is also hit by a bullet. He is both angered and intrigued by Laverde’s murder and wants to find out the mystery behind his life. His curiosity leads him circuitously to Laverde’s relationship with Elena, his American wife, whose death in a plane accident Laverde was grieving over at the time of his murder. Yammara meets Maya Fritts, Laverde’s daughter by Elena, who fills in some of the gaps in Yammara’s knowledge, and the intimacy that arises from Yammara’s growing knowledge of Laverde’s family leads him and Maya to briefly become lovers.

Toward the end of the novel, Yammara comments that Maya wrinkles her brow “like someone who’s on the verge of understanding something,” and this ambiguous borderland where things don’t quite come into coherent focus is where most of the characters remain.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59448-748-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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