This remarkable first novel follows the struggle of Ben Lucero, a young Filipino American priest who must come to terms with his bifurcated notion of home as well as his own religious commitment. Ben's first visit to the city of Cebu in the Philippines, for his mother's burial, becomes the occasion of his corruption when he is confronted with the manipulative wiles of two enigmatic women, his powerful Aunt Clara and her glamorous young business associate, Ellen. Ben is inherently corruptible, but his moment of truth is advanced by what he sees as a perversion of Catholicism, namely the crucifixion as a means of bargaining with God. Despair, guilt, and their religious corollary, the need for redemption, follow Ben back to Seattle, where he attempts to unravel his existential dilemma.
Bacho's vision is darkly comic, and he refuses to sentimentalize his demanding material. He conveys his vision well, balancing aphoristic meditations with the oblique revelations of funny, vivid, believable dialogue. His complex and timely message is underscored with skillful irony; even the denouement has an ambiguous twist, raising as many questions as answers.
The fiction of Carlos Bulosan and Bienvenido N. Santos has long been valued for its depiction of the lives of Filipino immigrants; this book tells the story of those immigrants' American-born sons and daughters. Bach's dramatization of the conflict between Filipino and Filipino American cultures conveys the concerns of the post-World War II generation with boldness and skill.