When Antonio Yammara reads that a hippo has escaped from a zoo in Bogotá once owned by notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, he recalls the era when Escobar's cartel clashed violently with the Colombian government and Antonio saw a friend murdered. Vasquez, a hugely important writer in Latin America, did well here with The Informers.[Page 92]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In this latest from Vásquez (The Informers), law professor Antonio Yammara recalls befriending retired pilot and former convict Ricardo Laverde, who is later killed in a shooting in which Yammara is seriously wounded. The murder propels an extensive inquiry into Laverde's background as events gradually rewind. We discover that Laverde's estranged American wife was killed in a plane crash en route to an attempted reconciliation and that his apiarist daughter Maya engaged Yammara to explore the life of a father whom she barely knew. Only near the very end do we discover Laverde's involvement in one of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar's drug cartels. Yet Vásquez does not emphasize the drug trafficking, instead focusing on poor choices and the role of memory in the retelling of events: "reality [is] adjusted to the memory we have of it." VERDICT The compelling Vásquez strikes comparisons that hold up even in translation. Readers expecting a thrilling reenactment of the Colombian drug wars of the 1990s should look elsewhere, but those seeking a more genuine and magnificently written examination of memory's persistence will be satisfied. [See Prepub Alert, 2/25/13.]--Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH[Page 75]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Scocca, "Off the Record" columnist for the New York Observer, offers a timely chronicle of China's transformation through an eyewitness account of how Beijing refurbished itself for the 2008 Olympics. From 2004 to 2010, Scocca records how the measures China took to present its best face to the world, restricting public spitting, banning the sale of knives in light of a stabbing, and winning 51 gold medals in the games themselves. He excels at straddling the line between the personal and sociopolitical: he marks the birth of his son and celebrating Christmas in the capital as larger changes in consumption and national identity sweep China. These personal touches are welcome reprieves in a text often inundated with sociological detail. The dizzying descriptions of the ringed layout of Beijing or the denizens of his apartment's alleyway are often difficult to keep track of, especially when laced together with the country's athletic preparation, architectural feats, and even attempts at controlling the weather. But in destabilizing the reader, the welter of sensory data and anecdote allows sharing in the author's bewilderment as Beijing constantly reimagines and reshapes itself. (Aug.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
"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.)[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC