The Descartes Highlands

9k=by Eric Gamalinda
Akashic Books, 2014

A mesmerizing story full of mystery, Gamalinda’s American debut tracks the lives of two brothers, Jordan and Mathieu, separated at birth, and their quest to discover their past. Given away by their father, Andrew Brezsky, in exchange for money, they are taken from their birthplace in the Philippines, adopted by different parents, and begin their lives under vastly different circumstances. Jordan ends up in New York, while Mathieu is adopted by French filmmakers who are mourning the recent death of their two-year-old son, and eventually follows in their footsteps and becomes a documentary filmmaker. The novel weaves together three stories, those of the brothers, Jordan and Mathieu, and their biological father, an American who is caught in the Philippines during the political unrest of the ’70s and inexplicably thrown into prison. Although the situations of the three men are completely diverse, their lives unfold in similar ways, especially when it comes to romance. Mathieu and Jordan both fall in love with complicated but empathetic women who want to help them come to terms with their murky past. Mathieu’s girlfriend, Janya, travels the world with him in a search for details on the death of his adopted parents’ first child, and his birth parents. Jordan’s lover, Yuki, looks for someone who can answer his questions about Andrew Brezsky and suggests methods to ease his adoptive mother’s pain. Gamalinda’s tale is intricate, but the full picture never comes into focus. Still, this novel benefits from its philosophical bent and beautiful writing. — Publisher’s Weekly

Eric Gamalinda is the author of two story collections, three books of poetry, and five novels. His novel My Sad Republic won the Philippines’s Centennial Literary Prize. Gamalinda was born and raised in Manila, where he worked as a journalist. He currently lives in New York City and teaches at the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University.

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