Book cover
Even though I'm reviewing an Advance copy, this story is surprisingly nonlinear, and I doubt that will change, though - really - it could.  The book starts, like a 1970s movie, listing the cast of characters in the approximate order in which the characters appear.  It's a story about two people, writing screenplays that are not exactly about the same thing, but are derived from a shared starting point and past.

Because it is non-linear, it is not obvious when switching between past, one of two screenplays and the present.  One has to carefully pay attention to the cast of characters to help determine *when* one is in the storyline.  This is not terribly difficult, but I had trouble getting back into the story when I paused for 48 hours around the middle of the book.

There are many Filipino references that subtly suggest this book isn't meant for me.  I don't mean to say that it is exclusionary, but it is definitely written in a way to not bother to introduce most words, phrases and Filipino cultural norms that I am not familiar with.  I feel like - to get the full experience - I should read it with Google open nearby, or - more naturally - be from the Philippines.  I read a lot, but I'm not that kind of advanced reader, so I just let the things I don't know wash over me in the comfort of knowing I don't need to know everything.

Here's the thing - when I'm in a chapter (as opposed to the jarring start of a chapter, where I haven't figured out where or when I am) - the writing is very engaging, and the characters feel very natural for who and where (or what) they are.  That said, the whole book is comprised of two parallel stories in two diverging and emerging screenplays of those stories, wrapped in a story of the two authors.  Put another way, it's meta, sometimes self-referentially meta.  It is also steeped in more than a little actual history of the islands, which is the part that most interested me (that is, the oldest, lowest level story).

Now that I've finished reading this book, it started to make a lot of sense.  I definitely feel it would all make sense if I read it a second time.  That said... there's a lot of books in this world, and I'm not going to make the tiniest dent by revisiting this one.

This is probably a great book to read while on the beach on a Philippines vacation, or if you live or have lived there.  It is a decent book if you like to read about the ripple effects that historic events have on lives and cultural perception over time.  If everything I wrote above gives you a headache, it's okay to skip this one.  I came really close to giving up more than once, but I'm glad I read it.

This is an advanced readers copy from BookExpo America, 2018.  There are two things stamped on my copy that make me cautious about publishing a review.  First are the words, "ADVANCE UNCOPYEDITED EDITION".  Second is, "do not quote from this galley".  No quotes are used so I hope it's Okay.

Soho Press
Release Date: 13 November 2018
Hardcover, 336 pages