Reflections: Come Together, Fall Apart

Cristina Henriquez has been hailed as a writer to watch. Her 2006 collection of short fiction Come Together, Fall Apart brings to life both the Panama that existed on the eve of Noriega's capture and that which exists today.

What follows refers only to the novella "Come Together, Fall Apart" within the collection of the same name.

The reader of  "Come Together, Fall Apart" experiences the months leading up to the US invasion of Panama through the journal of young Ramon. This adolescent falls in love for the first time while his family and country disintegrate around him. Appropriate to the age of the narrator, the emphasis on, and importance of, political and personal events seems out of balance; Ramon's uncertain steps into the arena of romance and petty theft naturally weigh more heavily on his mind than the change of home forced on his family or than the casualties taking place on the streets around him as car bombs detonate and random acts of violence occur.

For all of "Come Together, Fall Apart"'s inherent interest as a record of a historical moment, its real power lies in the description of a singular nuclear family and its misapprehension by those who see it, however intimately, from the outside. Ramon's mother and father are each originals in the best sense of the word, and they are held together by a bond that remains understated but unmistakable. The father exudes a gentleness and moral character that shape Ramon into the simultaneously tentative and commanding voice of the narrative. The mother's superstitious--almost mystical-- relationship to the world haunts the reader as she shies from the stresses of daily life under pressure of the invasion, but then finds the strength to make a quick, irrevocable and wrenching decision when demanded of her.

This fiction exudes none of the artful concision and focus that one expects from short fiction. It draws out unnecessary detail and imposes no order upon its tale. And yet, it is a story both creative and poignant.

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