The Human Zoo - Review
*I received this e-arc from Grove Atlantic Press via NetGalley. All views are my own*
"Filipino-American Christina "Ting" Klein has just travelled from New York to Manila, both to escape her imminent divorce, and to begin research for a biography of Timicheg, an indigenous Filipino brought to America at the start of 20th century to be exhibited as part of a 'human zoo.' It has been a year since Ting's last visit, and one year since Procopio "Copo" Gumboc swept the elections in an upset and took power as president. Arriving unannounced at her aging Aunt's aristocratic home, Ting quickly falls into upper class Manila life--family gatherings at her cousin's compound; spending time with her best friend Inchoy, a gay socialist professor of philosophy; and a flirtation with her ex-boyfriend Chet, a wealthy businessman with questionable ties to the regime. All the while, family duty dictates that Ting be responsible for Laird, a cousin's fiance, who has come from the States to rediscover his roots.
As days pass, Ting witnesses modern Filipino society languishing under Gumboc's terrifying reign. To make her way, she must balance the aristocratic traditions of her extended family, seemingly at odds with both situation and circumstance, as well temper her stance towards a regime her loved ones are struggling to survive. Yet Ting cannot extricate herself from the increasingly repressive regime, and soon finds herself personally confronted by the horrifying realities of Gumboc's power."
This is going to be a short review. The Human Zoo by Sabina Murray was not for me. As anthropologic I'd like to be, I don't think life in the Philippines is interesting. With a title like "Human Zoo," I would have assumed this would be a take on the injustice of immigration laws and the literal placing of people in a human zoo. Or by synopsis standard, the main character researching one of the Philippines darkest moments in history with the story of Timicheg, an indigenous Filipino brought to America to be exhibited as part of a 'human zoo.' But it was more focused on the main character's split life between America and the Philippines. I learned more about Timicheg using Google than I did reading this book.
It is a slow-paced book detailing the current life and politics in the Philippines I have no knowledge of. I couldn't translate the language, which made the book even slower for me. I also had a hard time trying to get into the characters and picturing the atmosphere of Manila. The disconnect is what led me to DNF at 38%.
I rated this book 3-stars. It's not what I expected. I wish I can describe more about the story but, I'm uninterested at this point.