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In A Storm's Wake, Two Books Help Make Sense Of What Remains

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In A Storm's Wake, Two Books Help Make Sense Of What Remains

Book Reviews

In A Storm's Wake, Two Books Help Make Sense Of What Remains

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

We are reporting today, as we have been all week, on the massive typhoon that made landfall in the Philippines. For some literary context, we've turned to our friends at NPR Books - and to a series we're calling This Week's Must Read. In this installment, reporter and writer Kevin Roose recommends "Dogeaters," a novel that takes place in the Philippines. It's by Jessica Hagedorn.

KEVIN ROOSE: In "Dogeaters," there's no middle class, only the extremely rich and the extremely poor. The book, set in the late 1950s in Manila, begins with the story of Rio Gonzaga, the daughter of a wealthy family. Around her swirls political turmoil of various kinds. There's a ruthless dictator, a powerful businessman and some servants.

The real Philippines, the nation that was devastated by the typhoon, is still a really unequal place. A quarter of the population lives below the poverty line, but the rich people in Manila wear designer clothes and drive expensive cars. And even though the country's economy is growing, it's hard to see how the new money will make it out to the agricultural provinces, the places the storm hit the hardest.

In the book, leftist guerillas rise up against the country's dictator, and a local nightclub DJ, Joey Sands, gets taken up in the battle. It's an exaggeration of midcentury politics in the Philippines, but not by much. When the waters of the typhoon have calmed, we'll see how much of the old society remains.

SIEGEL: Kevin Roose's first book is called "Young Money." It's out in February. He's also a business and economics writer for New York Magazine.

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