Juan Gabriel Vasquez’s The Sound of Things Falling, is a remarkable story of a young boy who grew up in a violent world and internalized the fears and paranoia. Antonio grew up when the drug cartels were terrorizing the streets of Bogota and making everyday citizens collateral damage. Antonio saw himself as someone who survived the destruction and is now living in a new Bogota mostly free from the drug violence.
However, Antonio lives his life without passion for his girlfriend, his career, or life. He befriends Ricardo, a man at the local pool hall, and Vasquez slowly entangles the two until the violence of Bogota’s past revisits them. After Antonio is shot and recovers, he has a hard time escaping the fear that encompasses his days. He meets Ricardo’s daughter and the two relive Ricardo’s passion for flying that lead to his being jailed for 20 years as well as the random violence that took Maya’s mother and the not-so-random violence that took her father. They discover a connection that only those who lived through the terrifying Columbian years could understand. During this time, Antonio finds life and learns about how he ended up in the cross-fire that took Ricardo’s life.
Vasquez questions why those who’ve been through traumatic experiences seek out those who understand and repel those who cannot. Although at the end of the story, as life, Antonio ends up alone. Vasquez is clear that we must endure, but we must learn how to endure by ourself. Antonio cannot rely on Maya to figure out his life.
This was a magnificent read. Vasquez allows the reader to internalize the fears and hope of his characters and strings us along as the characters need to discover how the past has influenced their lives. Beautifully told.
Read October 2013