Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Dogeaters is a fragmented, fast-paced, multicharactered novel that demands extreme concentration on the reader’s part. The first half of the book, entitled “Coconut Palace,” is a wild panache of seemingly unconnected narratives, beginning with the privileged adolescent cousins Rio and Pucha Gonzaga attending films and listening to the radio serial Love Letters. The plot shifts to the powerful and politically influential Alacran household, from which oldest daughter Baby elopes. A third shift focuses on the sordid life of Joey Sands, a drug abuser and prostitute who lives in a seedy shack with Uncle and works in a gay bar called CocoRico. The final shift is to the lower-middle-class courtship of Romeo Rosales and Trinidad Gamboa, who meet at a theater. All Manila societies are thus represented.
Rio and Pucha get their weekly manicure and pedicure at Jojo’s New Yorker, and some of the narrative threads begin to come together. It is revealed that Rio’s father works for Severo Alacran, with whom he and General Nicasio Ledesma are obligated to play golf on weekends. Description of the austere life of the general’s wife precedes the sordid profligacy of Joey Sands. Following an assignation between Joey and a male lover, the scene shifts to the elegant mauve bedroom of Rio’s mother, where Rio watches the mutual flirtation between her mother, her cross-dressing seamstress, and her manicurist, whom Rio’s father scornfully refers...
(The entire section is 729 words.)
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It is 1956. A young Filipina girl, Rio Gonzaga, narrates her family’s story. The Gonzagas are an upper middle-class family consisting of Rio, her older brother Raul, her mother Dolores and her father Freddie. Rio’s maternal grandmother, Lola Narcisa Divino, lives with the family in a guest room next to the kitchen in the back of the house because her husband, Rio’s American grandfather, Whitman Logan, is ill in the American hospital with what Lola Narcisa insists is the mysterious bangungot disease that only affects men. The American doctors do not know what is wrong with Whitman, dismissing bangungot as mere Filipino superstition.
Rio and her cousin Pucha Gonzaga are American movie fanatics. They are particularly fond of American actresses Jane Wyman, Agnes Moorehead, Gloria Talbot, Ava Gardner, Debbie Reynolds and Rita Hayworth. Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter are their favorite actors. Rio and Pucha attend movies every chance they get. Afterwards, Pucha likes to go to cafés, drink TruCola and flirt with boys, especially Boomboom Alacran, whom she plans to marry someday. Rio is four years younger than Pucha and not interested in boys. Rio enjoys sneaking off to her grandmother’s room at night to listen to the famous Filipino radio drama, Love Letters. Lola Narcisa rarely speaks, but she and Rio enjoy listening to the soap operas with the servants while they eat traditional Filipino food with their hands and “cry unabashedly.”
Rio’s father is a respected businessman who works for the very rich Alacran family. He often complains of being a “guest” in his own country because although his parents are both Filipinos, they grew up in Spanish colonial Philippines and moved to Spain when the Spanish ceded control of the country to the Americans. Rio’s “Rita Hayworth Mother” Delores is a former beauty queen who lives to maintain her beauty. She and her husband do not get along and each of them has a lover. Rio’s family is close with Pucha’s family. Pucha’s father, Agustin Gonzaga, is Freddie Gonzaga’s brother. Freddie has secured a job for his brother with the Alacran conglomerate. Once a year, the paternal grandmother Abuelita Soccoro travels to the Philippines to visit her two sons Freddie and Agustin, bringing her two other sons and their families. Abuelita Soccoro is a formal woman, religious and strict. She is very different from Rio’s maternal grandmother, the Filipina Lola Narcisa. The...
(The entire section is 2430 words.)