detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Thursday, June 05, 2008

: . Misalignments

(The Jupiter Effect by Katrina Tuvera. Pasig City: Anvil Publishing, 2006. 192 pages. 971-27-18199.)

In the Philippines of Katrina Tuvera's brilliant debut novel, everybody is guilty, some more so than others. In the novel's depiction of life during the Marcos years, loyalists and oppositionists alike play a role in the country's ruin but in different ways. The rest have been rendered vulnerable to cooptation. This is the predicament at the heart of The Jupiter Effect: what are the possibilities for action in a society bogged down by compromise, for change when the very concept of Newness has been harnessed for all too familiar ends? Growing up during Martial Law, siblings Kiko and Gaby Contreras feel the tug of opposing forces as their countrymen are swept up by promises and betrayals of the Marcos dictatorship. They discover, as they emerge out of their cocoons of relative privilege that the source of their material comfort may also be the cause of their social unease. Fittingly the novel ends without resolution. It is 1983 and contrary to the predictions of the Jupiter Effect, the alignment of planets, the pull of their combined gravities, does not lead to global catastrophe. But as political turbulence of a smaller scale rocks Manila, crossed-paths and divergent influences draw Kiko and Gaby towards an "uncertain edge", an abyss that offers "no easy answer(s)", only the promise of the unexpected. Like the Contreras "we will just have to wait" for what happens next. For although the events which inspired the novel have already unfolded, reading The Jupiter Effect nevertheless invites us to see the past as something yet to come, as a future requiring watchful waiting.

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