Doming Aquinaldo was seventeen when his father was killed by members of the military controlled by Ferdinand Marcos, and after escaping with his own life that night, he made it a matter of honor to avenge his father’s death. Some years later, he is living and working under an assumed name while walking a fine line: his friends try to lure him into assisting their revolutionary actions against the Marcos regime, but even as he lusts for revenge, he hesitates to become a part of such violence and destruction. While working as a driver for Trace Caldwell, an American diplomat, he is able to gain access to and pass along to his compatriots whatever information he can glean from Trace and the men with whom he works. Along the way, Doming becomes entangled with the diplomat’s wife, Rue. Their relationship begins as one of mutual dislike, but as Rue comes to love her job and the people of Manila, she comes to love Doming as well, and she soon comes to the realization that the work of her husband, his associates, and the Marcos reign are destroying the people of the Philippines.
Baby Jesus Pawn Shop by Lucia Orth has the amazing power to transport you to the Manila of 1982 and introduce you to those who suffered under the Marcos rein, and the author beautifully captures the lives of the Filipino people. I read this book with a mixture of desperation and helplessness and hope, feeding off the emotions of both Doming and his friends, as well as those of Rue, who “felt a dread, unnamable, that by not objecting she was also part of the farce and the horror.” I couldn’t help but get caught up, and this novel was certainly hard to put down.