The Bullet Swallower by Elizabeth Gonzalez James

A fictionalized family history rife with violence and vengeance, but with ultimate justice and the redemptive qualities of kindness and forgiveness. The finely written and swiftly moving narrative will maintain the reader’s interest throughout. A fine book with greater meaning.

The Bullet Swallower by Elizabeth Gonzalez James
Simon & Schuster
Hardcover | $26.99
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This magically entrancing book, filled with violence, kindness, vengeance and redemption is rich with emotional significance for all of us in this time of violence, kindness, vengeance and redemption. Like our own time, the days of “El Tragabalas”, the “Bullet Swallower” were drenched in strife and cruelty, leavened by the eternal capacity of humankind for empathy and forgiveness. This is more than an adventure thriller with supernatural, even religious overtones, it is an acknowledgement that although evil exists and persists through generations, justice and peace can be achieved, with suffering and perseverance.


The tone adopted by the author is tender, loving, in spite of the bloody themes and the harsh deeds of the protagonist, a character modeled on her own grandfather. In her own words, “Everything in this book is true, except for the stuff I made up.” The truth is the eternal truth of fiction: the narrative of human endeavor and the struggle to do the right thing in the face of the obstacles placed in our way. It is more than a story, a “made up” creation, it is a telling of the realities of life, warts and all. Most of us, perhaps, have not been persecuted as was Antonio Sonoro was, nor have we reacted in the often cruel ways he did, but everyone knows about hardship. The reader will find themselves hoping that good will triumph even when the protagonist may not be “good” in the classic sense.


This compelling tale is one that moves swiftly, alternating between the past and the present, each chapter filling in the gaps in the whole, moving towards an ultimate resolution that will satisfy a sense of justice and redemption through suffering and acceptance of guilt. It is also a loving tribute to ancestors who, while trapped in the mores and customs of their time, can perceive the long view that makes human life meaningful. It is an outstanding book and I recommend it to any reader who yearns to find truth in our existence.