Baby Jesus Pawn Shop by Lucia Orth (The Permanent Press)Lucia Orth captures the corruption and chaos of Ferdinand Marcos’ brutal Philippine regime in her haunting first novel. It’s the early 1980s and the United States is focused on protecting its military bases in the Philippines, turning a blind eye to the repression of the Filipino people. But Rue Caldwell, the lonely wife of a U.S. counter-intelligence specialist, cannot ignore the suffering she sees. She is already troubled by her husband’s callous attitude and by the politics of the Rice Institute where she works — she’s a biologist whose plant engineering promises huge profits for international companies but little benefit for starving people. Meanwhile, an uneasy attraction unfolds between Rue and Doming, her husband’s 28-year-old Filipino driver, who secretly steals security briefings and delivers them to the resistance. As the couple’s affair deepens and the country’s violence spins out of control, Rue and Doming confront their respective moral challenges in unexpected ways.Orth lived in Manila for five years and her writing resonates with authenticity. Frangipani blossoms scent the air, jeepneys clutter the streets, and mothers sell their children for coconuts. In a country teeming with unwanted babies, Rue longs for a child of her own. Local girls marry "Western men with eyes like dead fish," and faith itself, symbolized by the blue-eyed totems of the book’s title, is just another commodity to be traded in this soulless land. Originally published on MORE.com, February 2009.