The Solemn Lantern Maker
Delta, Oct 27 2009, $14.00
In the slums of Manila crippled Nena and her ten years old mute son Noland struggle to survive. She brings in money doing laundry while he and his friend Elvis sell paper lanterns they make from colorful paper.
With less than a week to Christmas a drive by shooting leaves an American dead and his wife badly hurt. Noland and Elvis witnessed the event and guide the woman to the former’s hut. As everyone searches for the missing American, Noland’s outraged mom rants at him proclaiming his good intentions will be the death of both of them.
This is a fascinating thriller that brilliantly looks at life in the Manila slums. The key cast members seem genuine as each reacts differently to Noland’s act of mercy. Thus this is a strong but cherished look at Philippine culture especially the gap between the impoverished and affluent. Merlinda Bobis uses the Manila setting on the international stage to tell a local tale of the indigent dreaming of making it western style while also schizoid loathing the west’s materialistic superiority; flaunted by aid that never reaches those in need yet enables the affluent to feel they are kind philanthropists. With a mystery re mother, son, and friend to enhance the family drama vs. the international situation, THE SOLEMN LANTERN MAKER is a tense winning novella