The Bullet Swallower follows a Mexican bandido as he sets off for Texas to save his family, only to encounter a mysterious figure who has come, finally, to collect a cosmic debt generation in the making.
Mixes elements of western novels and magical realism to deliver a wildly entertaining story that spans generations and crosses borders in a riveting family saga ... While great characterization and superb storytelling make this an enjoyable read, Gonzalez’s use of magical realism elements is what pushes this novel into must-read territory. The narrative reads like a western, but the magical elements enrich the story in unexpected ways.
This is fun, and James means it to be. But she also delivers these moments with heaps of irony. Romanticizing all this bloodshed and vengeance only perpetuates it, she means to say; in a just world, it should repel our admiration ... Remedio’s place in the story isn’t entirely persuasive ... Slyly ambitious, striving to pull off a trick nearly as tough as surviving a bullet to the head: to deliver old-fashioned, satisfying storytelling that critiques itself, insisting we move past those old fashions.
Combines a sturdy and enjoyable revenge thriller with a po-faced, and therefore hammy, story of a generations-spanning family curse ... At its best, James’s writing has dark, enveloping magnificence ... However, the novel suffers from a nasty bout of magical realism ... The Bullet Swallower has a grim, loping energy – yet up close, it’s just as misshapen.