Saturday 18 May 2024

Now You See Us

Finished May 14
Now You See Us by Balli Kaur Jaswal

This novel offered a glimpse into another place and life experience for me. It is set in Singapore, around three Filipino women of different ages who work as domestic workers. Corazon had worked in Singapore for years, and returned to the Philippines to raise her nephew Raymond. Now she is back in Singapore, and harboring a secret about what happened back home. We know that something happened to Raymond, but the whole story is only gradually revealed over the course of the novel. Her new employer is a widowed woman who has never had domestic help before. Her husband's death and other circumstances have led to her withdrawing from her friends and social experiences in general. One of her two daughters is getting married and she is being drawn into the planning of this, but she is dealing with loneliness that causes her to treat Corazon as a friend and that creates some issues for both of them. 
Donita is in her early twenties and this is her first job in Singapore. Her employer is a very demanding woman who tries to limit Dorita's freedom, and creates a difficult living situation for Dorita that gets worse over time. 
Angel is employed as a caregiver for an older man who has been debilitated by a stroke. She truly cares for his wellbeing and tries to help him recover physically as well as responding to his expressions in how much she asks him to do. On the personal side, she is also grieving the loss of a romantic relationship with another woman. When her employer's daughter hires a nurse to work with the older man, Angel worries about her job, but she also feels that her employer's son is trying to take adventage of her. 
Add to this mix a sensational murder, where a Filipino worker, Floradeliza, is accused of the crime. Donita knows the woman and is sure she is innocent, but doesn't understand the lack of power she and her fellow workers hold. 
This novel gave real insight into the logistics of working as a domestic worker, mostly in Singapore, but also in other places. There are lots of details about papers, medical requirements, and working conditions that really show how these people live under the threat of expulsion at the whim of their employers. 
The story is told in alternating points of view between the women, along with group chats online between them. There are also chats between the employers of such workers, and chats that other workers have during this time. 
The author made each of the main characters come to life for me, I could empathize with their situation and the circumstances they were trying to make the best of, while still trying to have some personal life for themselves. A real eye-opening read. 

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