The suffering of the Filipino people under the tyrannical Marcos regime is the setting for an impossible love affair in this earnest, at times elegant debut.
Starting with horrific acts of cruelty on page one, Orth’s forceful condemnation of the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines dominates the book. The hero is Doming, whose stepfather was murdered by the military, forcing the teenager to flee to Manila where, years later, he works as a driver for Trace Caldwell, an American counter-insurgency specialist, on whom Doming spies for the resistance movement. The United States, keen to prop up Marcos in order to secure its bases in the Philippines, is helping maintain an unspeakably corrupt regime that tortures and brutally suppresses all opposition. Rue, Trace’s wife, is the conscience of the couple, a lover of nature and a friend to her servants, who dislikes Marcos’s cronies and feels implicated. Driving with Doming one day, both of them see Trace with another woman, which marks the tipping point between Rue and Doming. Doming desires Rue but fears for her safety as he comes under increasing pressure to help with violent attacks on senior personnel in the regime. Rue becomes infected with dengue fever. During her recuperation she and Doming consummate their love, but soon further political outrages force him to act. The couple cannot be together: Doming’s future is with the people, who will eventually rise up against their oppressors. But childless Rue will not remain bereft.
A capable, often graceful novel in which the fiction is subservient to and less powerful than the serious political facts.