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The Bullet Swallower

Elizabeth Gonzalez James

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30 January 2024
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"A Most Anticipated Book of 2024 by Goodreads, CrimeReads, The Millions, StyleCaster, The EveryGirl, Sunset, Book Riot, and HipLatina

January Recommended Reading by The Washington Post, Kirkus Reviews, Book Riot, Nerd Daily, The Mary Sue, and Reading Between the Spines

""Mesmerizing...wildly entertaining...

Gonzalez is a great storyteller, bringing both Texas and Mexico to the page with a mix of blood and magic...

A must-read."" -The Boston Globe

In 1895, Antonio Sonoro is the latest in a long line of ruthless men. He's good with his gun and is drawn to trouble but he's also out of money and out of options. A drought has ravaged the town of Dorado, Mexico, where he lives with his wife and children, and so when he hears about a train laden with gold and other treasures, he sets off for Houston to rob it-with his younger brother Hugo in tow. But when the heist goes awry and Hugo is killed by the Texas Rangers, Antonio finds himself launched into a quest for revenge that endangers not only his life and his family, but his eternal soul.

In 1964, Jaime Sonoro is Mexico's most renowned actor and singer. But his comfortable life is disrupted when he discovers a book that purports to tell the entire history of his family beginning with Cain and Abel. In its ancient pages, Jaime learns about the multitude of horrific crimes committed by his ancestors. And when the same mysterious figure from Antonio's timeline shows up in Mexico City, Jaime realizes that he may be the one who has to pay for his ancestors' crimes, unless he can discover the true story of his grandfather Antonio, the legendary bandido El Tragabalas, The Bullet Swallower.

A family saga that's epic in scope and magical in its blood, and based loosely on the author's own great-grandfather, The Bullet Swallower tackles border politics, intergenerational trauma, and the legacies of racism and colonialism in a lush setting and stunning prose that asks who pays for the sins of our ancestors, and whether it is possible to be better than our forebears."

Imprint:   Headline
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 232mm,  Width: 152mm,  Spine: 24mm
Weight:   340g
ISBN:   9781399709071
ISBN 10:   1399709070
Pages:   272
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Elizabeth grew up hearing the tale of her grandfather, Antonio Gonzalez, the real El Tragabalas. She has taken dramatic license with actual events in her novel, but there is a basis of fact to the story - for example, Gonzalez was indeed shot in the face by the Texas Rangers - that has also provided the basis for other dramatic interpretations over time. Elizabeth's cousin, the Mexican movie star, Lalo Gonzalez, made a comedy about El Tragabalas in 1966, and well-known Texas folklorist, Jovita Gonzalez, produced a short story in 1935 riffing on the same legend. Now the interviews editor at The Rumpus, Elizabeth's stories and essays have appeared in The Idaho Review, The Rumpus, Ploughshares, PANK, and elsewhere, and have received numerous Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations. Her first novel, Mona at Sea, was a finalist in the 2019 SFWP Literary Awards judged by Carmen Maria Machado, and was named a 'Most Anticipated' book by The Millions, The Rumpus, and other publications, with Elizabeth appearing on NPR's Weekend Edition.

Reviews for The Bullet Swallower

"An utterly original, wild ride rendered by Gonzalez James' masterful hand that turns the traditional redemption narrative on its head. In cracking open her own family legends, The Bullet Swallower brings to vibrant, three dimensional life the people and history of the Mexican and Texas border. Full of heart and humor, the magic in this book is not what is invented, but that it makes you wonder what it is, in all our histories, we may have forgotten? * Xochitl Gonzalez, New York Times bestselling author of Olga Dies Dreaming * One Hundred Years of Solitude meets Lonesome Dove. A gunslinging Western laced with magical realism that illuminates the complicated history between Texas and Mexico, and the impacts of colonialism and generational trauma. The Bullet Swallower is the historical novel of our time because it asks: ""What do we owe for the crimes of our ancestors?"" A masterpiece! * Mary Pauline Lowry, author of The Roxy Letters * The Bullet Swallower is a rollicking, inventive tour-de-force, a novel you don't so much read as fall into like a dream-vivid, violent, and magical. Part Western revenge narrative, part family epic, part study of colonialism and displacement, this is the Texas-Mexico novel I wish had existed decades ago. We're lucky to have it now. Elizabeth Gonzalez James is a force. * Katie Gutierrez, bestselling author of More Than You'll Ever Know * Mythic, epic and multigenerational in scale, this novel reclaims North American history through its grand story-a gritty and bloody, iconic and subversive, smart, heartbreaking, and often funny fireside tale. The Bullet Swallower contends with such big and necessary questions and will mark new edges on a far larger map of the American literary and historic West. * Robin McLean, author of Get ’em Young, Treat ’em Tough, Tell ’em Nothing * To the lineage of Saramago and Borges add Gonzalez James. Resplendent and magisterial, The Bullet Swallower is an exploration of great evil, desperate longing, and redemption. This is a triumph: one of those rare stories which dwells in this our world but is not of it. * Tom Lin, author of The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu * Elizabeth Gonzalez James has accomplished an astounding feat - a book that is as thrilling as it is beautiful, that challenges toxic masculinity as it envisions what manhood could be. Yet, my favorite part of The Bullet Swallower is the elegance with which it collapses boundaries between genres, crafting an entirely original text-a magical realism western that calls to mind Don Quixote? Sign me up, please. Gonzalez James is a master storyteller who has gifted us a wild, unexpected story. Bravo! * Cleyvis Natera, author of Neruda on the Park * James is a writer to watch * ADAM JOHNSON, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Orphan Master's Son * James makes such deft use of tropes from Westerns, Gothic literature, and magical realism that they don't feel like tropes at all . . . she gives them life with prose that's both spare and intensely rich. This novel is valuable for its gorgeous language and gripping story . . . Mesmerizing and important. * Kirkus Reviews * Readers will find this a refreshingly modern recasting of the classic western . . . Gonzalez laces magical realism into her vivid epic of the Texas-Mexico border and the violence that shapes a family for generations * Publishers Weekly * With a powerfully drawn setting and viscerally convincing characters, James's novel is a strong addition to any general fiction collection * Library Journal *"

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