In her first novel since Insurrecto, Gina Apostol assembles a vision of Philippine history from the 19th century to present day in the fragmented story of the Delgados, a family surviving across generations of colonization, catastrophe, and war.
Rosario, a Filipina novelist in New York City, has just learned of her mother’s death in the Philippines. Instead of rushing home, she puts off her return by embarking on a remote investigation into her family’s history and her mother’s supposed inheritance, a place called La Tercera, which may or may not exist. Rosario catalogs generations of Delgado family bequests and detritus: maps of uncertain purpose, rusted chicken coops, a secret journal, the words to songs sung at the family home during visits from Imelda Marcos.
Each life Rosario explores opens onto an array of other lives and raises a multitude of new questions. But as the search for La Tercera becomes increasingly labyrinthine, Rosario’s mother and the entire Delgado family emerge in all their dizzying complexity: traitors and heroes, reactionaries and revolutionaries. Meanwhile, another narrative takes shape—of the country’s erased history of exploitation and slaughter at the hands of American occupying forces.
La Tercera is Gina Apostol’s most ambitious, personal, and encompassing novel: a story about what seems impossible—capturing the truth of the past—and the terrible cost to a family, or a country, that fails to try.
Praise for La Tercera
Praise for La Tercera
Longlisted for the 2024 Joyce Carol Oates Prize
A New York Times Editors' Choice
Ms. Magazine Most Anticipated Feminist Books of 2023
Refinery29 Most Anticipated Books of 2023
“A whirlwind of narrative . . . La Tercera expects a lot of non-Filipino readers, but the effort is profoundly rewarding, opening up a glorious new understanding of a country and a culture that ought to mean more to Americans than a twinge of guilty conscience. For a Filipino, I suspect reading it might just feel like coming home.”
—Hari Kunzru, The New York Times
“Packed with pop culture and literary references from Saturday Night Fever to Alfred Lord Tennyson, and untranslated words and phrases in Tagalog, Spanish and Waray, a regional Philippine language, the weighty prose forces the reader to confront the country's legacy of Spanish colonialism, American imperialism and the suppression of indigenous culture... A must-read for lovers of literature, history and language.”
“To say that Gina Apostol’s prose is pyrotechnical is to state the obvious: juggling an immense cast of characters, decades of political entanglements, and Apostol’s trademark brand of humor, La Tercera dazzles. I was floored by how the novel somersaulted between multiple languages, the personal and the national, overacted tragedy to heartbreaking history, the U.S. and the Philippines.”
“Stylish, meta-fictional, intelligent, kaleidoscopic, melodramatic, multi-generational, spiked with twisted Filipino puns and double entendres, and containing a book within a book within a book (because we never get just one book from an Apostol novel but two, sometimes three), La Tercera is a love letter from a daughter to her mother, and an urgent act of remembering that salvages the truth (or its remains) from the regimes that pursue its erasure.”
—R. Zamora Linmark, author of Leche
“A feat of lavish storytelling, La Tercera reinvents the family epic to surface political exigencies and shadow histories with Apostol’s signature linguistic mischief, madcap humor, and earthy intelligence. This novel flashes with prismatic light.”
—Tracy O'Neill, author of Quotients
“Some friends and I have a long-running saying: WWGD, as in, What Would Gina Do? Another way of saying this is that both Gina Apostol and her work are nothing short of indispensable: hilarious, overflowing with style, unapologetically erudite, and always burning with the cool, mutinous flame that can only be Apostol’s. Every book she publishes is an event; one that restores my faith in literature, and revives us to the world we thought we knew.”
—Elaine Castillo, author of America Is Not the Heart and How To Read Now
“To be Filipino, Gina Apostol writes, is to be a person under translation. Her ambitious project, at once relentlessly intellectual and dizzyingly slapstick, brings together two currents that usually never mix: the political project of anti-imperialism and the formal play of Borges, French theory, and postmodern fiction. What makes La Tercera so special is how it compresses these obsessions into a moving story of a novelist trying to understand her recently passed mother. It’s her most personal and accessible novel yet.”
—Ken Chen, author of Juvenilia
Praise for Gina Apostol
“A bravura performance in which war becomes farce, history becomes burlesque . . . Apostol is a magician with language (think Borges, think Nabokov) who can swing from slang and mockery to the stodgy argot of critical theory. She puns with gusto, potently and unabashedly, until one begins reading double meanings, allusions and ulterior motives into everything.”
—The New York Times
“Gina Apostol uses an array of literary and cinematic techniques: memoirs, jump cuts, close-ups, and reveries to set a story in Duterte’s Philippines that shows us that though victors often write histories, survivors and artists can revise them.”
—NPR’s Weekend Edition
“Wickedly funny . . . Ferocious in its political indignation . . . Pick one of the many figures offered by the novel itself: a palimpsest, a translation, a stereoscope, an abaca weave. Insurrecto is all of these things—a polyphonic work that challenges the reader to keep up with its plotting and to think with or against or through its complex moral reckonings.”
—The Boston Globe
“Dazzling . . . A tender character study erupting with blazing insights on the ethics of storytelling.”