When Jason DeParle moved into the Manila slums with Tita Comodas and her family three decades ago, he never imagined his reporting on them would span three generations and turn into the defining chronicle of the age of global migration. DeParle paints an intimate portrait of a family as they endure years of sacrifice and separation, willing themselves out of shantytown poverty into a new global middle class.
This ambitious and successful book profiles an extended Filipino family inching toward prosperity by laboring out of country for years, migrating to do arduous work in harsh places. It’s the opposite of an instant book; it has been cooking for three decades. The chef has combined, in considered proportion, ingredients gathered around the world—revealing family and work scenes set in the Philippines, Oman and Saudi Arabia, aboard wandering cruise ships and deep in the heart of Texas. And right when we’re hungry for them, he serves up telling social and economic digressions that place the family’s struggles in a political and economic context of global migration ... DeParle has a frank, amiable and plain-spoken virtuosity as a writerA Good Provider Is One Who Leaves deserves a place on the same high shelf as Kate Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers and David Finkel’s The Good Soldiers—recent books that enrapture readers with moving narrative while elegantly elucidating deep, humane and informed understandings of poverty and conflict. These books represent the highest and most powerful use of the oft-read but rarely identified genre of narrative journalism.
...[an] indispensable book, a Baedeker to an unnoticed and largely unappreciated global phenomenon, and a guide to understanding not only the flow of people worldwide but also the tensions that infuse politics worldwide. This may be a portrait of Tita’s world, but it is also the portrait of the world today—a world, DeParle shows us, that is in profound transformation as millions seek to better their lives ... In these pages DeParle offers us a brisk history of immigration and immigration policy and wise reflections on contemporary migration ... he’s a historian in seeing the process with a centuries-long perspective...but is a journalist with a reporter’s eye on contemporary events, seeing how corruption, poverty, and violence spur great waves of migration.
The family’s saga is...a page-turner, evidence of DeParle’s compelling writing. And while the book is already dense with several simultaneous narratives, it is not so much a biography of the Comodas as a treatise on global migration ... His reportage, however large a grain a salt one might wish to apply, depicts migration as somewhat of a global phenomenon by focusing on real-life narratives ... riveting, intelligent, and enlightening.