When the Elephants Dance

When the Elephants Dance

A Novel

Book - 2002
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A startling debut from a talented new young writer, WHEN THE ELEPHANTS DANCE is a riveting epic about a family and their neighbors who band together to survive the brutal Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II, as the Americans fight to gain control of the war-ravaged island. Based on the experiences of her father, who was a young boy in the Philippines during World War II, Holthe's story begins during the final week of the ferocious Japanese-American battle for possession of the Philippines. Here, we listen to three distinct narrators who reveal the struggle to survive in a small community outside Manila, where the streets are littered with dead bodies and the threat of capture by Japanese soldiers is around every corner. First, thirteen-year-old Alejandro Karangalan and his younger brother leave the safety of the basement where his family and others are hiding to go look for food for their family and medicine for their ailing father. They are caught by Japanese militants and wrongly accused of murder. Meanwhile, Alejandro's older sister, Isabelle, has been missing for days. As the family fears for her safety, Isabelle is met with the choice of avoiding a Japanese patrol or helping an injured guerrilla commander, whom she believes is responsible for the brutal Japanese counterattacks on their people. Her decisions lead her through a maelstrom of events that leave her stripped of her soul. At the same time, Domingo Matapang, the passionate guerilla commander, is torn between his pivotal role of helping his troops defeat the enemy, or protecting the lives of his wife and child. Will he follow the path of a warrior and a future with his soulmate, Chita, a feisty double agent, or the path of a provider for his wife Lorna and his beloved sons? As the war rages outside, five tales of hope and superstition unfold in the cellar. The stories, which are fueled by the myths and superstitions that were told with reverence in Holthe's Filipino household, help the civilians endure the atrocities and find hope in the midst of chaos.
Publisher: New York : Crown, [2002]
Edition: 1st ed.
Copyright Date: ©2002
ISBN: 9780609609521
Characteristics: xi, 368 pages : map ; 25 cm.


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nsalenga85 Aug 11, 2019

This is a great book about the Karangalan family hides with their neighbors in a cramped cellar in the waning days of World War II as the Japanese & U.S. forces to possess the Philippine Islands where they glean hope from the family stories & folktales they tell each other.

vnsa058 Mar 13, 2019

Words that come to mind about this novel: beautiful, tragic, family saga. Gorgeously written, and about a dark time in Philippine history. Effortlessly intertwines history and myth into a cohesive tale you won't forget!

Jul 22, 2013

Read this when it first came out, and again just now, 10 years later, and I still love it. It's beautiful and tragic all at the same time.

Jun 01, 2012

It's a good read- I like how Holthe intentionally included the Filipino culture all over the book.
Although one minor comment if I may are a few misspelled Filipino expressions, terms and names - and should be tolerated as Holthe was not born in the Philippines.
Over all it was a very good Filipiniana book!
Mabuhay & Salamat Ginang Holthe (Long live, thank you Mrs. Holthe)

Jan 15, 2012

A beautiful, sweeping novel that captures various sides of Philippine history and folklore. The story is told through the harrowing experiences of those struggling to survive the Japanese invasion. Holthe places her readers in their desperate situation, clinging to the last bits of family and home while death surrounds them. Despite the hardship, the characters share stories of their pasts that turn into 5 short stories in the novel. The short stories are richly filled with colour and fantastical imagery. Even though one may not want to be distracted from the main story into a side story, Holthe finds creative ways to keep one flowing to the other, leaving the most exciting side stories for last. In the end, the reader knows far more about all of the characters than they would have in a more traditional novel format, and all of the stories together combine at least a century of experience for the Filipino residents of Bulacan. As a Canadian-Filipino who grew up in Canada, this was an exciting and wholly different read -- a magnificent outlet to the culture of my distant people, something I would have not known of so clearly without an author like Holthe. To the everyday reader, this will be another historical drama that will grip you and give you characters to love.


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Jan 15, 2012

kaliko thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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Jan 15, 2012

"Papa says that the Philippines is far, far behind the other countries. He says that we are like abused children who have never been allowed to grow. How can we stand together when so much division has been created between us?"


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