Posted by : Ruby Escalona Sunday, October 31, 2010

In a third-world country, there lives three boys who picks up trash to make a living. Welcome to their life: picking up trash to clean, sell and get a bit of money in return to feed them. It's a life that's bleak, where most of the stuff they scavenge turn out to be human waste [not a good thing], until one day, they come across a bag. The police are after this bag, so they try and chase the boys to get it. Little did these boys know that this bag would change their lives forever, and unravel a mystery that was in the national news.

I first came across this at a Facebook post by one of my favourite bookstores here in Manila: National Bookstore. They were having a book launch and since there rarely are any book launches in MNL, I jumped at the chance and went with a colleague of mine from work!

Anyway, I have a bit of a soft spot for this book. First off, it shows the cruel reality of life here in MNL: the poor are getting poorer, the rich are getting richer, and well, there are so many corrupt officials out here that it's hard for the country to actually rise up. Okay, enough of the dark stuff, on to the book. Although the setting was not specified, it is obviously based in Manila [as what Andy Mulligan said during his book launch] and some of the places he stated in his book are real: Green hills, McKinley Hill [which is just a stone's throw away from my office building and the British School Manila, where Andy used to teach], South Superhighway [which I pass every day as I go to and from work], while some places are loosely based on other settings in Manila. I believe Navaho Cemetery is the North Cemetery -- where yes, there is a divide between the poor and the rich, even in death. There are obviously those stacks of graves that he was describing, and yes, the 5-year lease is also true and if you can't pay, the bones would just be tossed out. And yes, there definitely are people who make a living by foraging in the trash, even children. The sad realities of life in Manila.

While the characters are not as well-developed as I hoped, their bonding makes it an ideal team as they tried to solve the puzzles in the book. At times I often wonder if I were in that situation, would I have been brave enough to complete the task and the mystery involved? Or would I have taken the money? It's such a huge dilemma! And yes, money definitely is involved in almost every aspect in everyday life here.

I loved this book, it took me just a few days to finish this, and since it's quite short [200+ pages], it is a quick read, but the message is deep. Although the plot can be quite predictable, and the writing is simple, I loved every bit of this book and I'm more than happy to have gotten a copy and had it signed by the author. It makes me want to say how lucky I am to be in a position that I am in and thankful for everything that I have.

Published: 2010
Publisher: David Fickling books/Random House
Available from: Everywhere!
Read it if: You want a glimpse of life in MNL and the realities of the harshness of life picking up trash, how corruption works
Book was: bought from National Bookstore; signed by the author at the book launch.
Rating: LOVES [4/5 rating!]

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