WHITE REDLING by N. C. Layumas


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Set in the Philippines of the early ‘70s, a pivotal turning point in the country’s history, Layumas’s historical fiction novel paints a vivid picture of a young man coming of age in a chaotic society.

David Cordero Eastman is the son of an American GI and a Filipino bargirl. When he is only seven years old, David’s father abandons him and his mother, condemning them to a hopelessly impoverished existence. In a culture where Muslim, Christian and Communist ideologies clash, David grows into an embittered teenager. His father’s rejection and his mother’s chronic illness (and the poverty and filth of his surroundings) are sharply contrasted by the wealth and decadence of Americans and bourgeois politicians. On a stormy September night, David leaves his mother asleep in their rat-infested, dirt-floor hut. He pledges his loyalty to the Communist Party, only to find that the local leader, suspicious of his glaringly American features and previous aversion to violence, merely grants him probationary status within the group. While David’s best friend, Archie, becomes an even closer comrade, his girlfriend, Juliet, cautions him against declaring a political affiliation. When the Marcos regime enforces martial law, David’s cohorts target major military leaders. During an assassination attempt, Juliet is killed in the crossfire. Eluding political chaos, Archie’s betrayal and his grief over Juliet’s death, David seeks refuge on the plantation of a powerful American millionaire who cares more about the people than acquiring wealth. While there, he meets an attractive nurse who takes him to church and teaches him about spiritual healing. The writing ranges from well done to dodgy, plagued by occasionally choppy dialogue, misspellings and grammatical errors. Additionally, not all foreign words and customs are explained. Despite these problems, the book is unusually rich in authentic visuals and has genuine cultural appeal, its characters remaining believable and three-dimensional throughout.

A slice of life, vividly rendered, that most Americans will never experience.

Pub Date: June 14th, 2005
ISBN: 978-1-4134-6849-6
Program: Kirkus Indie
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