Esperanza Street

Niyati Keni. Other Stories (www.andotherstories.org), $15.95 trade paper (326p) ISBN 978-1-908276-48-3
The pungent smells, sounds, and flavors of Esperanza Street stand out from the spare and slow-to-unfold plot in Keni’s debut. Set in Puerto, a bustling mercantile port town in the Philippines on the cusp of upheaval, the novel shadows a meek, motherless houseboy, Joseph, as he evolves from running errands for others at his once-wealthy Aunt Mary’s boarding house into an independent young man with a home of his own. Aunt Mary’s handsome son, Dub, undergoes a different sort of transformation when he falls in too deep with a flush and untouchable real estate developer’s mistress, who soon becomes pregnant (though the identity of the baby’s father remains a mystery). What takes readers’ attention beyond each characters’ mundane particulars is Keni’s vivid portrayal of a crumbling yet vibrant barrio: her setting is defenseless against inevitable progress, wherein moneyed landowners win out and lowly merchants, fishmongers, and jetty laborers are displaced to make way for a luxury shopping mall and sprawling parking garage. It’s the fight between those who support the town’s revitalization and those who rally against it despite the risks that turns pages. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/08/2014
Release date: 02/01/2015
Genre: Fiction
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