Nov. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9781616959449. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781616959456. F

This complex, nonlinear novel centers on atrocities committed during the Philippine-American War, events little known to most Americans. These events are recounted through a multi-layered story about Chiara, a filmmaker whose father directed a movie about the Vietnam War in Samar, Philippines in the 1970s, and Magsalin, a writer and translator whom Chiara hires as a guide. As they travel together to Samar, Chiara and Magsalin present competing versions of a screenplay in order to confront the Balangiga tragedy, and their own demons, directly or indirectly. Along the way, we get chapters numbered out of order, meta-commentary about truth, fiction, and colonialism, and references to popular culture from Muhammed Ali to Elvis Presley. Within the novel itself, Apostal directly confronts anticipated criticisms about the confusing nature of the narrative, and posits whether the reader needs to understand everything, or pick up every reference. 

VERDICT : While the postmodern structure of the book serves to distance (and at some points frustrate) the reader, by the second half there is a forward thrust, and the chapter numbering begins to make sense. The novel will find a worthy place in collections strong in post-colonial and experimental fiction.

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