#BookReview Trash by Andrew Mulligan

Publication date: 16 Jul 2010

  • Publisher: RHCP Digital
  • Language: English



Raphael is a dumpsite boy. He spends his days wading through mountains of steaming trash, sifting it, sorting it, breathing it, sleeping next to it.

Then one unlucky-lucky day, Raphael’s world turns upside down. A small leather bag falls into his hands. It’s a bag of clues. It’s a bag of hope. It’s a bag that will change everything.

Soon Raphael and his friends Gardo and Rat are running for their lives. Wanted by the police, it takes all their quick-thinking and fast-talking to stay ahead. As the net tightens, they uncover a dead man’s mission to put right a terrible wrong.

And now it’s three street boys against the world…


I read this book on the recommendation of my grandson who brought it home from the school library to read. He recommended that we all read it when we can in our family book club WhatsApp group.

The story is narrated by each of the individual boys and others who encounter them or care for their welfare along the way.

The book is set in a fictional city in the Philippines somewhere near Manila. In the city is a massive rubbish dump that seems to be the centre of a whole community of shack dwellers who live close to the dump and their children are known as ‘the dump site boys’ who spend their days picking out various items that have a street value or can be exchanged for a few pesos to help their family members to live. The boys are filthy dirty as befits their occupation – no point dressing smartly in their job even if they had smart clothes to wear which they don’t. The clothing they wear are those that have been thrown away that they’ve found and used. They live from day to day scavenging this way, some days luckier than others with whatever they can find from the site.

One particular day, no different from any others but marked by a momentous event that will shape the rest of the lives of Raphael, Gordo and Rat, the three dump site boys who have bonded in the impossible circumstances of their lives.

Raphael finds a small bag with an identity card inside showing the photo of a man and his young daughter. Also inside the bag is a couple of thousand dollars and a key.

Later there is a massive buzz going on around the dump site as police cars start to arrive and dump site inhabitants are informed by the police that something has been lost in the trash and the the site would be the most likely place it’s ended up. Rewards are offered to whoever finds the missing item.

Raphael’s aunt, with whom he resides lets slip that Raphael found something interesting in the dump amongst the garbage. When questioned by the police however Raphael only admits to finding a shoe.

Raphael though becomes a person of interest to the police department. After a fierce interrogation at the police department that’s interspersed with a vicious beating and torture of the type that involved him being held by his ankles out of a window from a great drop onto a concrete compound below, Raphael doesn’t give anything away. They let him go but the experience causes trauma and nightmares for the young boy.

Together with his two friends Gordo and Rat the boys gradually discover what the key is for and the information they discover by way of a coded message in an old bible (Author Andrew Mulligan – first came across the device in a novel by John le Carré. It was explained as a very simple code that relied on two or more people having exactly the same copy of a book)

The three boys embark on a journey of discovery using their wits and the street smartness of Rat to evade capture from a police force intent on discovering their whereabouts.

They each know that they wouldn’t last long in the hands of the police in this corrupt city and capture would lead to only one outcome – their ultimate deaths.

Brave. Powerful. Exposing the very heart of a totally corrupt system where lives are cheap, poverty is plentiful and money and wealth are worshipped above all else. Illustrating the wonderful power of friendship, love and kindness in very difficult circumstances.

To Purchase via Amazon UK


Andy Mulligan was brought up in South London. He worked as a theater director for ten years before travels in Asia prompted him to retrain as a teacher. He has taught English and drama in Britain, India, Brazil, and the Philippines. He now divides his time between London and Manila.

To Purchase via Waterstones

How I wrote Trash in ten days straight a Guardian article from the author

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