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Baby Jesus Pawn Shop Hardcover – November 1, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Orth, who worked five years for a nonprofit organization in Manila, Philippines, captures both the beauty and cruelty she witnessed there in her stellar first novel, set in the early 1980s near the end of Ferdinand Marcos's despotic reign. Doming Aquinaldo, a rebel whose father was murdered by Marcos's henchmen, is employed as a driver for a U.S. diplomat, Trace Caldwell, who supports the regime's oppressive policies. Doming eventually finds an ally (and lover) in Trace's lonely wife, Rue, who comes around to Doming's view after witnessing the everyday atrocities to which U.S. officials turn a blind eye. Orth vividly evokes the Manila of that era, from the beggars to the superstitious prophecies that substitute for hope, with such sensory details as the sound of a ripe mango hitting the ground and the bitter tang of rice wine vinegar on a piece of tanguigi (e.g., a whitefish). A judicious peppering of Tagalog lends further authenticity. (Nov.)
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From Booklist

In the last days of the Marcos regime, Doming Aquinaldo is employed as a driver for an American diplomat in Manila. Doming can never return to the rural village where he was raised due to his close association with an activist priest and his father’s death at the hands of Marcos’ goons. Many of Doming’s closest friends have been viciously tortured for their political beliefs, but that has only increased their fervor and their attempts to recruit Doming. But he is a thoughtful man, one saddened and disgusted at the rampant corruption and cronyism that prevent people from making a living wage. Doming finds refuge in a wholly unexpected place—his employer’s lonely wife, Rue. Doming, however, realizes that increasing political turmoil has put both Rue and her husband at risk, forcing Doming to choose between his loyalty to his friends and his love for Rue. This impressive first novel not only re-creates the sights, sounds, and smells of Manila during the late 1980s, it also captures the dignity of those who were long oppressed but never cowed. --Joanne Wilkinson
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The Permanent Press; First Edition edition (November 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579621708
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579621704
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,678,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In this extraordinary debut novel, author Lucia Orth uses the five years she worked for a non-profit organization in Manila to provide information, background, sensitive description, and color, however dark, about life in Manila for all levels of society. With an eye for the "unbelievable" and an ear for the absurd, she recreates Manila society in the early 1980s, the last years of the reign of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Focusing on Trace Caldwell and his wife Rue, Americans working for US National Security interests in the Philippines during the Reagan years, the author takes a microscope, one with no "politically correct lens," to examine US policy regarding this third world country.

For years the atrocities committed by the Marcos regime in the name of "democracy"have been "excused" by the Reagan administration because of the need to maintain US bases in the Philippines during the Cold War. As the novel opens, in June 1982, Ferdinand Marcos has been in power since his democratic election in 1965. For the past ten years, however, he has been a dictator, with an ambitious wife and a ruthless military which profits financially from keeping Marcos in power. The needs of the populace, most of whom are living in poverty, are disregarded. In the meantime, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, a potential rival for President, is living in exile in Boston after enduring seven years of solitary confinement in one of Marcos's "re-education" camps.

Orth creates a vivid picture of Filipino life by focusing, in part, on the lives of the Caldwells and their servants--Celia, the cook, and Doming Aguinaldo, the chauffeur, an educated young man who had been planning to enter the seminary when circumstances demanded that he help his family financially instead.
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Format: Hardcover
"You see, this is what those in power would like to have, our memories. I am memory," explains a knife-sharpener to Doming in Baby Jesus Pawn Shop. Lucia Orth's debut novel is a stunning and audacious novel about betrayal and courage, complicity and resistance, endurance and hope.

Baby Jesus is an exceptional story about a group of people living through the repressive and corrupt Ferdinand Marcos regime in the Philippines, a regime supported by the U.S. government's interests in the resources of the island. What sustains the central characters are their memories, visions, and great love of a Philippines worth dying for.

Doming Aquinaldo, who was forced to give up his university studies after his father's murder by the Marcos regime, is a driver for Trace and Rue Caldwell, a couple from the U.S. As Rue awakens to the reality of her husband's support for the oppressive Marcos government, Doming finds himself drawn in to an attempt to overthrow the Marcos regime in order to pave the way for the return of Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino and his promise of a liberated Philippines. Other characters in the novel, including a reporter, a maid, and the owner of the Baby Jesus pawn shop, also depict these circumstances with a well-written realism.

The result is a suspenseful chain of events which are both heartbreaking in their portrayals of cooperation with government brutality and shining with instances of extraordinary bravery. Baby Jesus Pawn Shop is a superb and finely-crafted novel, authentically told, and reminiscent of the international politics and ordinary lives depicted in such films as Syriana, Traffic, and Men with Guns.
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Format: Hardcover
I have recently been interested in reading about the Philippines and Marcos' regime in the 1970's-1980's. I received this book for the Early Reviewers at Librarything.com and was amazed on how it was the perfect novel for me. This is Lucia Orth's first novel and it kept me reading until the last page. The novel takes place in the Philippines in the early 1980's when the United States is focused on keeping Communism out of the Philippines and keeping the US Military bases on the islands. Rue Caldwell, the wife of a US Diplomat, arrives to the island and begins to question what it is that her and her husband are doing there. Doming, their driver, has his own story that will let the reader feel the tension of the Philippine people. I love how the novel included many historical facts about the political climate of the time, along with excitement, espionage, and a love story. The novel is written beautifully with a lot of imagery and great characterization.
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Format: Hardcover
Lucia Orth's debut novel, "Baby Jesus Pawn Shop," is long on setting and atmosphere, immersing its readers in the brutality of a 1982 Manila still under the thumb of Dictator Ferdinand Marcos. By 1982, Marcos was dying of kidney failure but he was determined to win one final "democratic" election to solidify, in the eyes of the rest of the world, his hold over the Philippines. Most people, of course, suffered tremendous hardships under his rule and some of the braver ones were now turning to demonstrations, bombs and assassinations in hope of overthrowing the Marcos regime.

It is a world in which no one can be trusted, including representatives of the U.S. government stationed in the Philippines. Marcos wants to stay in power and will do whatever it takes to make that happen. The U.S. government fears losing access to the military bases it maintains in the Philippines and appreciates the relative stability of the brutal Marcos regime. Those who want to overthrow Marcos and his henchmen fear the spies who seem to be everywhere.

Into this tense and volatile world comes Rue Caldwell, a woman whose husband represents the United States in its dark dealings with Marcos and his generals. Rue may be a naïve woman when she arrives in Manila but she is nobody's fool. She is a compassionate woman and she tends to identify with the people who cook, clean, and drive for her, a quality that exposes their world to her in all of its precarious ugliness.

The blinders finally come off Rue's eyes for good when she comes to know her driver, Doming, a man who, some years before, had been forced to flee his native village after making a symbolic attempt to avenge the government's murder of his father.
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