Banana Heart Summer a novel by Merlinda Bobis is not just good...it's your-lola's-adobo-when-you-don't-expect-it-but-you-kind'a-really-needed-a-pick-me-up good. I'd like to really thank Honey P. for this unexpected 253-page delight and to think, I just randomly picked it up from a pile of free ANVIL books offered during a book meet. Thanks Honey P. and ANVIL.
I don't know if the book is autobiographical but it certainly is a coming-of-age book, but anyway...
The book is a slice in (of?...from?) the life of a Bicolana girl, Nenita and the peculiar goings-on of a (not-so?) typical backwoods barrio during the, I guess mid or late 1960s. Page after delectable page we see life unfold for Nenita and her family, their friends, and neighbors. In every chapter Nenita sees the people around her, their lives, hopes, and dreams. She equates them or draws parallels to them with the wholesome and earthy food of the Filipino countryside, in most she even gives the recipe and instructions on how to prepare them. The truly great thing is that all this fits, the talk about food does not detract or distract from the commonplace quirkiness that is typical (I assure you) of a quiet small town in the probinsya. In and around this is a solid, provoking story of this probinsyana and how she did good and took care of her family.
For me, this book has everything, kumpletos recados 'ika nga, there's just enough tragedy, comedy, wry introspection, cultural observation, intrigue, folksy wisdom, etc. to provoke that sweet sense of nostalgia for something tip-of-the-tongue familiar and very much Filipino.
Labels: book review