cover image Leche


R. Zamora Linmark, Coffee House, $15.95 trade paper (280p) ISBN 978-1-56689-254-4

Linmark (Rolling the R's) cunningly follows Philippines-born Vince De Los Reyes through the trials and surprises awaiting him upon his return to his home country after spending 13 years in Hawaii. Filipino émigrés are often known as "balikbayans"—a distinction, Vince finds as soon as he reaches Philippines customs, that is fraught with political and cultural implications. Having won a contest, Vince has returned to free accommodations and fanfare, but he's not prepared for the heat, politics, and eccentric characters that accompany life in Manila. He immediately falls for a cab driver and, at a celebrity-studded party, befriends a famous activist nun, an acclaimed director, and the actress daughter of the country's president. Within the narrative of Vince's Manila sojourn and the teasing out of his dark past, Linmark intersperses tongue-in-cheek tourist tips ("staring is a favorite Filipino pastime") and revealing postcards Vince writes to friends back in Hawaii. As quirky and funny as its oddball characters, Linmark's latest is a unique, colorful portrait of cross-cultural experience and a view into the complexities of modern-day Philippines through the prism of an ex-pat's self-discovery and quasi-homecoming. (May)