The stilted reminiscences of a daughter of privilege from the Philippines whose naïve acts of rebellion teach her a tough life lesson.
In her third novel, award-winning, Manila-born Apostol delivers a sketchy history of her country’s politics from the solipsistic perspective of a “spoiled brat,” Soledad Soliman, now recovering from a mental breakdown in her family’s luxurious New York mansion. The child of arms dealers, Sol spent the 1970s in the U.S., avoiding the violence at home. Returning to Manila, to a life lived among the elite, she had plans for a foreign education, but illness intervened and instead she attended a local college where she met a political crowd including another Soledad (this one a Maoist) and her wealthy boyfriend Jed. Sol’s attraction to Jed leads to an affair conducted during evening graffiti raids, but her wish to join the political group is compromised by her parents’ business, which props up the military government. Helping Jed steal arms from her parents’ warehouse, she colludes in a plot to assassinate a U.S. counterinsurgency expert, an operation which succeeds but reveals in its aftermath that life is a much dirtier business than she knew.
The central character’s inexhaustible fragility and self-pity test the reader’s patience in this awkwardly-phrased parable of realpolitik.