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Like her 30ish protagonist Caridad, Chai (who was born in Manila) has Chinese parents and a cultural heritage that is as much Chinese as Spanish and Filipino—a heritage that makes for a pleasingly textured novel, though at times the insertion of local color seems forced. Now living in Australia with her daughter, and temporarily estranged from husband Jaime, Caridad is summoned home to Manila by a letter from her mother. Once there, she is drawn back into the lives and secrets of Thelma, her mother; her aunt Emma; and Ligaya, her oldest cousin. With a certain amount of foreshadowing and numerous richly detailed detours into local history, including an account of the Japanese Occupation, Caridad learns the truth about her parentage. Thelma recalls her marriage to Raoul, the only son of an affluent Chinese family who expected her to live with them and bear many sons; the infant Raoul brought home with tragic consequences; the changes in their marriage; and the decision she made and never regretted in the first year after the war. Emma, meanwhile, recalls her happy marriage to Alfonso; the birth of their many children; the privations and horror of the Japanese Occupation; and the early death of Alfonso, a loss that had many repercussions. Ligaya adds her own personal memories, as well as her reasons for not marrying for love; and Caridad, as she travels back and forth among the women, finally understands her past and herself. Realizing "that I had so much. . . . I had been given so much," she goes back to try reconciliation with Jaime.
A thin, less-than-riveting plot enhanced by graceful prose and a generously—at times too generously—evoked sense of place and period: a flawed but promising first outing.
Posted January 16, 2014
Posted January 9, 2007
Arlene Chai's first venture is well-written and expounds on the interplay of various cultures on the Filipino people. Our strong Spanish and Chinese influences and conflicting values are captured profoundly yet it is still a joy to read. Family relationships esp. among women is also depicted with keen perspective.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 21, 2002
Arlene Chai's is an excellect read for people who are interested in people and relationships. In the book the focus is on Filipino women: as wife, daughter, aunt, niece, mother, sister,grandma, granddaughter, in-law, friend. The relationships are given extra texture thru the interplay of Chinese, Filipino, Spanish, and Australian cultures, and the influence of American and Japanese occupations. Unique insights into Philippine society are likewise provided, including the period under Marcos's martial law. This is a book the value of which can only increase over time inasmuch as it has neatly captured various nuances of the Filipino character and of Philippine life for the enjoyment and insights of future generations.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 5, 2000
A great read about life in the philippines (Manila in particular) during and since WWII. This book also gives great insight into a Filipino mother-daughter relationship.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.