One of the Philippine Daily Inquirer's Top 10 Books of 2014 A NewPages Book Stand Editor's Pick "Darkly spellbinding...With a keen eye for splendor amid the grotesque, Gamalinda writes with a poet's heart and a philosopher's mind, while enthralling readers with emotional, gritty storytelling." --Booklist "A mesmerizing story full of mystery...intricate...beautiful writing." --Publishers Weekly "It's Gamalinda's best and most accessible novel yet, deserving to be read by as many people as possible." --Philippine Daily Inquirer "It felt so easy to get swept up in this novel. The language is beautiful....a beautifully written book." --NewPages "The wait for Gamalinda's first US based publication was well worth [it]...An indispensable, powerful portrayal of broken families trapped in the centripetal forces of transnational capital and postcolonial politics." --Asian American Literature Fans "Gamalinda...does indeed write fearlessly...in rich, unflinching prose. This storytelling stayed with me...I was compelled to keep reading by the strength of the writing (it's not for nothing that Gamalinda is the recipient of the Philippine National Book Award, a Palanca Memorial Award, and a Philippine Centennial Prize)." --Galatea Ressurects #24 "I recommend this book to those with large, giving hearts, who can afford to spend the emotional capital demanded here." --Basso Profundo "The Descartes Highlands is a psychologically taut drama that unravels right in front of you...I guarantee that you will be richly rewarded." --Zachary Mule "Behind Eric Gamalinda's jagged, ice-pick prose is an urgent need to connect and to understand. Are we more than the sum of our histories? What is this accident of being? Why is there anything at all? Written at the edge of a sinkhole and determined to resist its pull, The Descartes Highlands is about nothing less than the whole bewildering dream that is human consciousness." --David Hollander, author of L.I.E. "No one writes like Eric Gamalinda, though we wish we all could. The Descartes Highlands, an amazing work of brutal candor girded by a philosopher's calm, entwines our present despair with the horrific pasts we will not escape. One of the most dazzling novelists writing in America today, Eric Gamalinda has an almost classical Greek faith in the redemptive power of art. This novel delivers a commitment to beauty as unflinching as the bleak truths it tells--about globalization, about colonialism, about our human madness--offering in turn what seems our only, paradoxical hope: the pained telling of our story--a gorgeous and bitter feast." --Gina Apostol, author of Gun Dealers' Daughter Two men, each unaware of the other, share a common family secret: they were sold for adoption by their American father shortly after their births in the Philippines. Three alternating stories interweave the experiences of father Andrew Breszky and the two sons who try to connect and piece together the puzzle of their reckless, impulsive father. One lives in New York and the other grows up in the south of France, later traveling all over Asia as a documentary filmmaker. Both will discover that their relationships somehow echo that of the young man whose history eludes them. Celebrated Filipino writer Eric Gamalinda's international debut novel is a contemporary work of ideas that combines mystery, film noir, and existential philosophy. Highly intricate and written in a style reminiscent of the maverick narrative techniques of such filmmakers as Andrei Tarkovsky and Béla Tarr, and with some of the philosophical underpinnings of Michel Houellebecq or Javier Marías. Named after the region of the moon where Apollo 16 landed in the same year these men were born, The Descartes Highlands demonstrates that for lives marked by unrelieved loneliness, the only hope lies in the redemptive power of love.
A mesmerizing story full of mystery, Gamalinda's American debut (after the poetry collection People Are Strange) tracks the lives of two brothers, Jordan and Mathieu, separated at birth, and their quest to discover their past. Given away by their father, Andrew Brezsky, in exchange for money, they are taken from their birthplace in the Philippines, adopted by different parents, and begin their lives under vastly different circumstances. Jordan ends up in New York, while Mathieu is adopted by French filmmakers who are mourning the recent death of their two-year-old son, and eventually follows in their footsteps and becomes a documentary filmmaker. The novel weaves together three stories, those of the brothers, Jordan and Mathieu, and their biological father, an American who is caught in the Philippines during the political unrest of the '70s and inexplicably thrown into prison. Although the situations of the three men are completely diverse, their lives unfold in similar ways, especially when it comes to romance. Mathieu and Jordan both fall in love with complicated but empathetic women who want to help them come to terms with their murky past. Mathieu's girlfriend, Janya, travels the world with him in a search for details on the death of his adopted parents' first child, and his birth parents. Jordan's lover, Yuki, looks for someone who can answer his questions about Andrew Brezsky and suggests methods to ease his adoptive mother's pain. Gamalinda's tale is intricate, but the full picture never comes into focus. Still, this novel benefits from its philosophical bent and beautiful writing.