Tag Archives: historical fiction

The Umbrella Country by Bino A. Realuyo

Synopsis from Amazon.com:

The Umbrella Country by Bino Realuyo“Certain things are better kept than said. . . .
But certain things you have to find out now. . . .”

On the tumultuous streets of Manila, where the earth is as brown as a tamarind leaf and the pungent smells of vinegar and mashed peppers fill the air, where seasons shift between scorching sun and torrential rain, eleven-year-old Gringo strives to make sense of his family and a world that is growing increasingly harsher before his young eyes.

There is Gringo’s older brother, Pipo, wise beyond his years, a flamboyant, defiant youth and the three-time winner of the sequined Miss Unibers contest; Daddy Groovie, whiling away his days with other hang-about men, out of work and wilting like a guava, clinging to the hope of someday joining his sister in Nuyork; Gringo’s mother, Estrella, moving through their ramshackle home, holding her emotions tight as a fist, which she often clenches in anger after curfew covers the neighborhood in a burst of dark; and Ninang Rola, wise godmother of words, who confides in Gringo a shocking secret from the past–and sets the stage for the profound events to come, in which no one will remain untouched by the jagged pieces of a shattered dream.

As Gringo learns; shame is passed down through generations, but so is the life-changing power of blood ties and enduring love.

In this lush, richly poetic novel of grinding hardship and resilient triumph, of selfless sacrifice and searing revelation, Bino A. Realuyo brings the teeming world of 1970s brilliantly to life. While mapping a young boy’s awakening to adulthood in dazzling often unexpected ways, The Umbrella Country subtly works sweet magic.

There is a tendency among expatriates to romanticize their homeland; I certainly understand such an impulse, being of the Filipino diaspora myself. Bino Realuyo does exactly this in and attempts to exorcise his past and his origins. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing; the expatriate experience is rich, ever-evolving, and certainly deserves to be chronicled. However, it may be that more time needs to pass before the author can deliver his ideas in a more cohesive way.

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Filed under Debuts, Postcolonial Literature, Postmodern Literature

Brothers by Da Chen

Synopsis, courtesy of Amazon.com:

Brothers by Da ChenAt the height of China’s Cultural Revolution a powerful general fathered two sons. Tan was born to the general’s wife and into a life of comfort and luxury. His half brother, Shento, was born to the general’s mistress, who threw herself off a cliff in the mountains of Balan only moments after delivering her child. Growing up, each remained ignorant of the other’s existence. In Beijing, Tan enjoyed the best schools, the finest clothes, and the prettiest girls. Shento was raised on the mountainside by an old healer and his wife until their deaths landed him in an orphanage, where he was always hungry, alone, and frightened. Though on divergent roads, each brother is driven by a passionate desire—one to glorify his father, the other to seek revenge against him.

Separated by distance and opportunity, Tan and Shento follow the paths that lie before them, while unknowingly falling in love with the same woman and moving toward the explosive moment when their fates finally merge.

Brothers, by bestselling memoirist Da Chen, is a sprawling, dynamic family saga, complete with assassinations, love affairs, narrowly missed opportunities, and the ineluctable fulfillment of destiny.

Brothers tells the old familiar story of rivalry and bitterness between brothers (or half-brothers, as it were). Tan and Shento are the sons of the General Ding Long, a member of the illustrious Long clan, which has political ties to Chairman Mao. Tan, being the legitimate son, is privy to a world of private schools, chauffeurs, and society parties; Shento, as the bAstard son, lives in the remote area of Balan with the old couple who adopted him. After a myriad of implausible events, Shento lands in an orphanage and Tan’s family goes into exile in the remote province the Longs came from.

Sumi Wo is the long-suffering, (stereotypically) saintly female protagonist who charms the pants off of both Shento and Tan. (What a coincidence, eh?) Shento gets dibs as he met Sumi first; they are both orphans with grand dreams of life beyond the orphanage. Tan meets sumi in his family’s ancestral village and is (of course) immediately enthralled by her beauty and intelligence.

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Filed under Fiction - General