Multilayered, empathetic, and touching account of a workingman’s life.

A Village in the Fields

In Enrado’s debut novel, a retired Filipino farmworker looks back on his long and costly struggle for civil rights.

As the story begins, Fausto Empleo is the last remaining Filipino elder in his retirement village for farmworkers. A visit from his estranged cousin prompts Fausto to review his life. Born in 1912, he came to the United States in 1929, following his older cousins, all bent on pursuing some version of the American dream. Ready for hard work, Fausto was unprepared for the racism he encountered: being called “brown monkey,” signs that read “Positively no Filipinos allowed,” etc. With his cousins, Fausto followed the harvest up and down California to cut, pick, and process crops. The labor was hard, wages low, conditions primitive. Eventually, the expatriates helped build a Filipino community in central California, starting families and buying property. In 1965, wanting a better life for his children to come, Fausto joined the Delano grape strike, but the strike’s hardships cost him his house, car, and, worst of all, his beloved and pregnant wife, Marina, who returned in disappointment to the Philippines, leaving Fausto feeling empty. At the end of his life, Fausto learns some answers to long-held questions and gains a measure of peace. Enrado’s characterization is beautifully observed; she conveys the tactile, sensory quality of farmwork, the way a much-used tool fits a man’s hand, and how dirt seeps in to every wrinkle of clothes and body. Fausto’s culture, friendships, and inner life see rich expression. For a novel dealing with social justice issues, it can be difficult to avoid the soapbox, but Enrado is nuanced. She notes, for example, that before the war, the land Fausto’s enterprising cousin Macario buys “belonged to a Japanese farmer, who’d been relocated to an internment camp”—proof that one minority’s opportunity can come at the expense of another. The novel’s tone of reconciliation is well-earned: as Fausto says, “nothing worth fighting for is easy.”

Multilayered, empathetic, and touching account of a workingman’s life.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Eastwind Books of Berkeley

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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