by Niyati Keni
This is a coming of age tale (yes, another one; I think I’m on a run of them) set in a port town in the Philippines. It follows the lives of those who live and work on Esperanza Street, which runs from the sea, a fairly poor port area, uphill to more affluent homes. Joseph works as a houseboy for Mary Morelos, a widow whose own two sons are close to him in age, so he exists in an uneasy balance between servant and friend. Though his story is filled in through flashbacks, the bulk of the novel is set in the summer of 1981, when irrevocable change comes to Esperanza. It’s also the summer he becomes a go-between for one of the Morelos boys, which may turn out to be a dangerous position.
“Though Bobby Morelos had been dead for years, his presence persisted in the room…In a certain tricky late-afternoon light that gave the present the texture of the past, it almost felt as if he might walk into the room at any moment.”