Japan faces defeat in the Philippines, and some 2,000 American internees face mass murder in another blend of fact and fiction from master alchemist Robbins (The Betrayal Game, 2008, etc.).
Remy Tuck, 45, and his son Talbot, 19, are prisoners in the Japanese internment camp at Los Baños, about 25 miles from Manila. They’ve been there for three desperate years. It’s now 1945: Food is in short supply; their guards range from callous to sadistic; and imprisonment has had dehumanizing effects on all the detainees. Still, father and son are the stuff of survivors, each in his own way. Remy, a born gambler, plays cards, wins an egg or a mango, sometimes an extra privilege or two. Tal, a born romantic, is in love. On the other side of the compound, a young Filipina named Carmen endures a different kind of imprisonment. She’s what her captors euphemistically call a “comfort woman”; her role is to provide sex on demand for the Imperial Army, and the demand is appallingly great. Carmen has seen Tal only from her window, and they’ve never spoken, yet somehow the two have made a connection that serves as a lifeline to a better time. Meanwhile, the atmospherics at Los Baños are undergoing a sea change. P-38s and bombers attack regularly. The Japanese thrust toward victory is inexorably transmuted into a thirst for vengeance. Filipino guerilla forces get word to the American 11th Airborne Division that a massacre has actually been scheduled, mass graves for internees already prepared. In counterpoint, a daring freedom raid is hurriedly scheduled. Remy and Tal will play vital roles—Carmen, a complex one.
A remarkable story, brilliantly told.