Sunday, July 28, 2013


Title: A Light in the Cane Fields
Author: Enrico Antiporda
Publisher: Blue Owl Editions
Publication Date: April 11, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Guest Reviewer: Margitte 
Margitte’s smiley rating: 5/5


(From Goodreads)
Top Semi finalist, 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

Manuscript Review from Publishers Weekly

"This coming-of-age story chronicling a Filipino boy's wrenching passage from son of privilege to guerilla fighter is a stylistic tour-de-force. From its first lines, the saga of Jando Flores seizes readers with the same chilling intensity as the cold water that wraps around Jando's chest as he hides in a river to escape a gang of pillaging cutthroats. While such murderous militias dispossess cane farmers in the Central Plains of the Philippines, the NPA (a brutal leftist insurgency) combats the government troops of Ferdinand Marcos and the ruthless sugar barons who steal the poor farmers' land. Jando, whose family owns a plantation, is forced into the NPA, but he remains a sensitive soul, brimming with empathy for his fellow countrymen-even as he watches others, like his beloved uncle, morph into fierce, sadistic killers. Incandescent descriptions radiate from the pages of this book. When a wounded Jando wakes, after narrowly escaping a death squad, he sees "marmalade light slicing through the fronds, weaving orange and black tiger stripes." Mountain bandits, sugar warlords, Peace Corps volunteers, dignitaries, and revolutionaries all jostle beneath "mango-colored" skies in this riveting epic of loss and transformation, but it is a masterful and delicate choreography. " –Publishers Weekly


This is one of the best books I have read in a very long time! 
When it was finished my first thought after reading "The End" was: "what an unbelievably, incredible, amazing story!" 

Jando, a twelve-year-old child is the narrator, lying in a 'spider-hole' introducing himself as a boy-soldier - those kids "too tough to be real children, too young to be real men". 

The riveting, evocutive tale starts with his innocent life on his father's sugar plantation, introducing his family: 
Mang Miguel Flores, his dad; Sampaguita Inday - his mom; Tanaya - his adopted little sister, with her pet pig Rosa; Monching - his missing brother; His uncle - Tio Mario:"He was a boulder no one could budge, someone one could hide behind. Today showed me that he was only human "Oso was a member of the Peasants Union and was as disagreeable as a swollen canker sore." 

Jando is still discovering the world around him, describing his life from every angle: the smells of the forests and plantations, his mom's masterful cooking of traditional foods; the colors of the insects, animals, mountains, flowers, clouds; the detail of the community's dresses, believes, habits, history and languages. We are taken into the lives of decent, hardworking people living an uncomplicated life. 

And abruptely his life changed when he also was confronted with the ugliness of revolution, war, politics and greed in which his family's - as well as those of many people around them's lives would forever change.
"Bad wind never blows alone, so goes the Filipino saying. 

But I wasn't listening. I wanted to be alone. I was mad. Mad at Mama and Papa for delaying me, mad at Father Rufino for leaving me, mad at Tio Mario for interrupting me, mad at Leilani for cheating on Oso, mad at Oso for being a fool, mad at Tato for getting himself killed, and mad at everything else. I punched the air with my fist. It was a stupid world with stupid people living in it.

The author blended love, family, hardships, war, and unbelievable violence into a poetic tale of hope and determination.

The story is fast moving, exact, riveting. "The sun rose and fell and the days peeled away like the pages of a calendar."
Every page would shock, mesmerize, and grip the reader as a silent witness to this remarkable historical accurate, yet fictitous tale. 

The reader is left breathless at the end, yet also grateful for a young boy's integrity, compassion and love for his country and his people and the price he was willing to pay to honor the people he loved and to keep his promises. 

"The memories still haunt us, but they are faded now, like the pages of an old manuscript left out in the sun." 

I recommend this brilliant,compassionately-written book to anyone enjoying Khaled Hosseini, Amy Tan, Abraham Verghese, Tan Twang Eng. 


A Light in the Cane Fields by Enrico Antiporda has 12 reviews on Goodreads. Read it here.



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