The second book in a historical fiction trilogy set in the Japanese-occupied Philippines during World War II.
Taylor’s (Eden Lost, 2014) latest picks up in 1941 with Joe Armand—the son of Joshua from the previous novel—who’s in Manila to arrange for the purchase of a ship. Joe knows of Joshua’s own experience in the Philippines, during which his father fell in love with a woman named Isabella. Although she’s not his mother, Joe wants to know more about this legendary woman. While waiting for orders, he wanders to the church where she was buried and meets Luci Blake, an American from Hawaii with bright red hair—and it’s love at first sight. Luci has come to the islands to join the Red Cross and has become a part of an elite social circle. She finds out more information about Isabella from her friend Leah Ramirez, a Spanish-American socialite. After Pearl Harbor is attacked in December 1941, the Japanese military bombs the Philippines and begins its invasion. Together, Joe and Luci face near-death experiences that serve to strengthen their already close bond. Leah helps Luci escape the Philippines on a ship bound for Australia, leaving Joe alone to avoid capture by the Japanese. At the last minute, though, Luci and Leah decide not to go. Separately, Luci and Joe fight for their lives; they eventually meet again, transforming from young lovers into guerrilla fighters opposing the Japanese occupation. Overall, Taylor has embarked on a great undertaking in this second novel in his trilogy. He incorporates a great deal of history into his novel—each chapter, for example, opens with a historical note or an entry from Leah’s journal. A common theme soon emerges in the parallel stories of Isabella and Luci of how women (and men) are changed by war. At times, though, the prose is hindered by its staccato rhythm, which is choppy rather than nimble. That said, Taylor does succeed in illustrating the complex history of WWII in the Pacific through the eyes of his characters.
A sometimes-brutal but also heartwarming book about two people who learn life lessons from their war experiences.