Set against the backdrop of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, readers follow the journey of Luki, an indigenous girl from the Philippines. We begin with Luki’s sheltered tribal life in the mountains, before following her journey to America (with hundreds of other natives) to attend the St. Louis World’s Fair.
Based on a true story of how native people of the Philippines were once exhibited as living attractions, the book blends real elements of the World’s Fair with Luki’s narrative, shedding light on the exploitation and discrimination endured by her people. The story pulls the reader into Luki’s inner world, guiding them through the unfamiliar sights and sounds of St. Louis and the World’s Fair. One truly feels the awe and wonder experienced by Luki as she explores this new place, emotions which begin to change as her initial impressions of America are challenged when the Americans she encounters dehumanise and belittle her.
The characters are richly developed, in particular Luki, Samkad and their indigenous friends. We explore aspects of Luki’s culture and her strong sense of spirituality. Luki retains a strong connection to the ‘Invisible World’ and her deceased mother throughout the book, drawing on her spirit for strength.
This is a fascinating page-turner that does not shy away from difficult topics like discrimination and death. Readers that enjoy stories with a unique setting and culture will love this historical fiction book.