Sophie’s journalism career’s going great. Her show, The Assignment, stands at number one. But being a bachelorette at forty is taking a toll on her and it’s time for change. Now Sophie’s off on one final trip to the Philippines, where protestors wave signs against President Marcos and children beg in the streets, and where she once was loved. Fascinating details provide a vivid background of contrasts to this tale. Fabulous houses and wondrous meals offer luxury in a world where children live on the streets and maids sleep on the floor. The slightly formal dialog evokes speaking and being understood in a foreign land, while words in the Tagalog language, naturally included, add a deeper authenticity. Filipino virtues of sharing and loyalty are contrasted intriguingly with America’s love of privacy and independence. Meanwhile Sophie has mysteries to solve while broken hearts wait to be restored. The life of poor villagers in Bataan comes to life as the past tells its tale. A young girl dreams of being rich or, failing that, at least eating dinner, while her mother condemns her disobedience and a kind priest promises hope. In the present Sophie seeks information for her documentary. In the past, Japan invades and lives are as lost as the story is hidden. Passionate lovemaking shares the stage with a military coup, both told in careful detail. Faith and fate combine to ease the lot of the street children and solve the mysteries of the past. And the whole is a delightful story of love and mystery and hope. There are occasional distractions (Axis of Evil for Axis in WWII), but not sufficient to spoil a beautiful story which builds to a breathtaking conclusion.
Disclosure: How can it have taken me almost a year to get to this? I was given an ecopy by the author and my read-and-review backlog swamped me.