Friday 11 March 2011

Miracles happen every day...let us pray for earthquake/tsunami victims

THIS BOOK REVIEW IS DIFFERENT FROM the rest of my previous reviews. Honestly, I don't intend to write this review very soon but today is very important for us to offer our prayers and support (in any means) to people who are currently affected by a 8.9 magnitude earthquake (that created tsunamis/surges) in Japan (coast of Sendai City) and for those people in Christchurch (New Zealand) that suffered the same fate few weeks ago. With this journal, it is my simple way to extend my concern which could also remind people to be vigilant in times of calamities. What a coincidence that Candy Gourlay's debut novel has something to do with the human spirit when unexpected natural disasters strike. It tackles issues related to cultural indifferences, sibling relationship, belongingness (peers acceptance), and friendship. The story evolves in the personal life and family of Bernardo - a young lad, who lives in one of the towns of Metro Manila with unusual height of 8-foot tall - still growing; but for his neighbours/townmates he is a hero who has the power to stop earthquakes. Trying to live-up with the community expectation and his "humongous" structure, Bernardo (Nardo) also struggles to be just a normal kid and hoping that he finally visit his mother's family in London. On the other hand, the book also brings the life of Andi, the half-sister of Nardo who loves to play basketball! Ultimately, these young siblings meet-up and interactions are the main ingredients of the novel. The book is categorised as a children's story, but honestly, there are underlying messages that the author would like to convey, not only for those kids who love to play basketball, who believe in myths/tales, but also for adults (like me) being captivated by Filipino hero characters (like Bernardo Carpio, Darna, Ang Panday, and many others) and supertitious beliefs. And most importantly, the story rekindles the human spirit, hope, faith and courage - having them could bring miracles in our lives, especially in time of calamities and family problems. In particular, the story also provides a glimpse of Filipino culture like: the struggles among Filipinos working abroad (aka OFWs) to bring a bright future for their families left back in the Philippines. On the lighter side of it, the author shows the comical side in the lives of Bernardo and Andi with their loved ones and friends. Cultural differences and individual expectation among siblings also bring sense of humor and entertainment in the story.
"So many years I wear rubber slippers or sandals because no shoes fitting me. Timbuktu sandals good but London very too cold to have bare toes." - Nardo
After reading this book, it allows me to reflect on issues relating to natural disaster preparedness, culture shock (living, working, studying overseas) and immigration issues. It reminded me of my personal experience during the 1990 (16 July) earthquake that struck the Philippines with a magnitude of 7.8 (epicenter). I dont know but it was a death-threatening moment trying to hide myself under the office table as the whole building moved furiously. Another important highlight of the story is about the eagerness of Filipinos to work abroad. As poverty haunts them back in the Philippines, they work hard only to send remittances to their families. Referrred as Overseas Filipinos Workers (aka OFWs), they have the same fate that Nardo's has, struggling to be heroes - helping their loved ones back home despite the hardships of living/working abroad! The author is clever enough to bring some of the Filipino way of living: giving a name to a child (using best friend's name, a syllable combination from parents' name, using grandparents' name, or father name - becomes Junior/Jr). I was surprised that the author did not use "Junior" (aka Jr) for Bernardo's nickname since his first name is derived from his late father's name. Moreover, I thought that the issue on immigration is a bit outdated and doubtful considering that Bernardo's petition took a long time to process. I assumed that the parents asked a solicitor's assistance to expedite the process which was not explicitly explained in the story. Another minor situation presented in the book that I disagree is Bernardo's arrival to London, a week after his immigration papers was approved by the Home Office. Obtaining a passport, visa and plane ticket need a substantial amount of money, and with the current financial status of Nardo's parents (just bought a house) could probably requires a longer time for him to fly to London. Unless his Aunt Sofia and Uncle have savings to cover the expenses.
"And the truth is, even though I didn't know him, I have missed him just as much as he has missed me" - Amandolina aka Andi
Finally, using a best friend's name for her daughter is also unusual (not common but the name itself might came from the friend parents: Amando and Lina) Filipino custom - mostly parents mix-up with their own first names to come-up with a name like my sister got (without her consent and hated it...hahaha) - Rodyma, a combination of the first syllables of my parents' name: Rodolfo (Rudy) and Magdalena! Or another example that might give you a smile - Luzviminda, derived from the three major island groups of the Philippines - Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Overall, this is a captivating story that brings hope to everyone - having a positive outlook in life. And of course, the power of prayers that could bring miracles in our lives...God Bless every one! Note: Tall Story has been shortlisted in the following British book awards: Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize, Blue Peter Favourite Story Prize, the Leeds Children’s Book Prize and the Hillingdon Secondary School Book Prize, Branford Boase, the Redbridge Children’s Book Award, the UKLA Book Award and the Carnegie Medal. The book is now available in the US since February 08, 2011.

Im happy to give away two paperback copies of the book (maybe signed by the author). If you are interested to join my Read-Release Global Challenge 2011, CLICK HERE. Deadline: 15 March 2011 (midnite)

For updates on Japan's earthquake/tsunami, the British Foreign Office can be contacted for advice on 020 7008 0000, or from Japan on +44 20 7008 0000 +44 20 7008 0000, and can be emailed on


Candy Gourlay said...

Hey Rey, I'm glad you expedited your review - it's so timely in the wake of the appalling events in Japan. My thoughts are with the victims and I hope their ordeal doesn't linger.

And thank you for the excellent review - you're the first to pick up on those factual points. When I finished the book, I ran these by an immigration lawyer friend of mine because I was very aware that immigration has come a long way since the 1980s. She said Bernardo's situation still comes up on rare occasions ... hence in the Acknowledgements I made sure to say things were much better and I was careful not to set the story in a particular time!

As for names! Heh heh, I named Andi after one of my very good friends, Amandolina Navasero, the photographer aka Mandy. Your description of Filipino naming culture was delightful. In my family, we have formal Spanish names for our tombstones (mine is Maria Cristina) and American nicknames (Candy!) ...

Thanks again for your excellent comments.

Reymos said...

Hi Candy, thank you very much for having time to read and write your comment. I do hope that our readers out there will be able to grab a copy and share it with friends. Im sending copies to my cousin's kids in California and Toronto in the next few weeks and having your booktemplate will make it more special. Good luck to your next story and dont forget to keep us posted. All the best. Rey

Note: I even forwarded the link of my review to a Japanese friend (in Tokyo) yesterday as a simple way of comforting her during this unexpected disaster. I met her during my postgrad program in Australia five years ago.