Barbed and alluring, this third novel by Hagedorn (Dogeaters; The Gangster of Love) revolves around the purported discovery of a Stone Age "lost tribe" in the Philippines, and deftly explores late 20th-century Filipino cultural identity. Led to the cave-dwelling Taobo by an enterprising local in 1971, mestizo politician Zamora López de Legazpi is as contented as a "conquistador without an army" can be. At around the same time, 10-year-old Rizalina, the sole survivor of a shipwreck in which her brutal father and twin brothers were killed, comes to live with her mother, who serves as loyal cook to Zamora at his grandiose Manila palace. A model student with an inquisitive mind, Lina is briefly happy, but when she is nearly 12 and Zamora takes an unseemly interest in her, she flees and ends up prostituting herself. A few years later, Vincent Moody appears, a captivating but aptly named film celebrity who abandons his girlfriend and son in California to star in a big Vietnam-era blockbuster, Napalm Sunset (think Apocalypse Now). When he stumbles upon Lina at a joint called the Love Connection, he falls for her, and makes her part of the film's entourage. Meanwhile, Paz Marlowe, a Filipino-American journalist with social ties to Zamora's family, returns to Manila to attend her mother's funeral and to unravel the inconsistencies in accounts of Zamora's discovery. With the addition of each narrative thread, Hagedorn deconstructs Zamora's story, revealing the corruption of a regime capable of orchestrating the discovery of a new tribe as part of a public relations coup. Hagedorn hits some notes too hard, but her storytelling is sensuous and vivid and her characters are cunningly imagined; she offers a telling glimpse of the imposing American presence, both physical and cultural, in the Philippines. Agent, Harold Schmidt.(Sept 29)
Forecast:Hagedorn's second novel ( The Gangster of Love) didn't live up to the promise of her debut ( Dogeaters, a 1990 National Book Award nominee), but her latest comes closer and should win back readers. Six-city author tour.
Release date: 10/01/2003