The Summer of Us by Holly Chamberlin: Reviewed

One of the holiday reads I bought was Holly Chamberlin’s, The Summer of Us. I bought my own copy at my favorite bargain bookstore, Book Sale for only Php 80 (around $1.60). Honestly, I don’t have high expectations with the book. I conditioned myself on this idea because I assume that bargained books are those that don’t sell and appeal readers. However, after finishing the book, I could say that the book exceeded my low expectations. I would give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

The Summer of Us is the story of three girls, Gincy, Danielle and Clare, who have extremely different personalities but ended up to be the best of friends.

Gincy is the single, career woman who grew up from poverty. I could actually relate to this side of her. We were both raised in the not so financially endowed family. Gincy and I are the type of individuals who have to climb every step of the improvement ladder. The negative side of Gincy is her brutally frank personality. She says what she wants to say without inhibitions. This in effect caused her some troubles over the two girls. Another trouble with Gincy is her reluctance over commitment to Rick, who was almost perfect except for being a a single dad.

Life is almost perfect for Danielle. She has the ideal family and the financially rewarding job which could support the wants of a typical member of the female populace. Shopping, shoes, clothes, bags, cosmetics, and all those material endowments showered the life of Danielle. Danielle’s main dilemma is finding Mr. Right. Mr. Right for Danielle however is not the ordinary fisherman, Chris, whom she loves. He has to be Jewish, well-educated and conforms to the family’s standards.

Clare is said to be the group’s blueblood. She also came a family that could provide her more than what she wants in life. Among the three girls, Clare is the only one in a relationship. To be more specific, she is engaged with an equally upper class man, Win Carrington. Ironically, Clare’s problem emerges from his Mr. Perfect fiancé. Clare is losing part of herself from her long time relationship. She was given all those reasons and signs to quit the relationship. Clare however chose to become the Denial and Martyrdom Queen.

The three girls got connected through a one big summer vacation. The three of them are strangers to each other before that vineyard vacation. They met in a bar and the twist of fate made them decide to share one vacation house. Though honestly, if I were Clare, Gincy or Danielle, I would not let myself get hitched with total strangers.

The book was almost perfect except for the following weaknesses,

1. It was made too lengthy – Though the book was a quality read, I find it too lengthy. There were some immaterial events in the novel that  added useless pages.

2. A number of unbelievable events – This could explain why I find the novel too lengthy. I find some unnecessary events in the novel. One of which is Clare’s impulse sex escapade with a guy she just met at the concert. I find Clare’s image and upbringing not likely to have sex with a guy she knew for less than a day. In the end, Clare and that guy never saw each other again. This just convinces me that such part was immaterial for the plot.

Another unnecessary part is Gincy’s problem with Mommyzilla. Gincy’s reluctance to accept the responsibility of being a stepmom to Justin is already a sufficient point of interest in the novel. And to be honest enough, Rick is not the ideal guy for a divorced mommy with a daughter. Rick’s description in the novel is not someone girls would really die for.

Clare, being a runaway bride? I would have accepted if she ended up married then months after filed for a divorce, did not come on her wedding day and called up Gincy and Danielle, or have postponed or called off the wedding before it happened. I don’t know, but I find stories of runaway brides too fictional and movie like.

On the positive side however, these are some points I appreciate on the novel.

1. Society’s definitions on successful women – The novel was able to bring out one of the painful expectations among women. The society has unfortunately defined successful women as employed, married, a wife and a mother. Why a typical, single career woman can’t be considered as a successful person as well?

2. Light and Humorous – I love reading but I don’t engaged much on those deep, analytical and serious stuff. Reading is one my favorite past time activities. Hence, when I read I look for those light, humorous but heartwarming and enlightening stories. The novel fortunately adhered to my standards. The plot maybe shallow for some but its unsaid and sad facts about being a woman is what I really appreciated. The novel was able to balance the elements of humor and learning.

3. Unrealized thoughts – Though the plot of the novel was too shallow, Chamberlin was able to unearth some realizations about being a woman, relationships and even family ties. I initially thought that having close family relationships is only prevalent among Asian communities. Clare and Danielle’s family however gave me a picture that in the Western world, family relationships are still valued.

The book may not be perfect read. However, I am still recommending it to all members of the female populace. The novel will give you some points of humor but provide you silent realizations about being a woman.

What really excites us for Christmas

It’s the time for parties, shopping and giving!

Here in the Philippines, December is the most awaited month of the year. Most Filipinos are Catholics so we are really looking forward in celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. One trivia even claims that our country holds the record of celebrating the longest Christmas season. I don’t know if it’s true but if given the chance to experience Christmas in other countries, I could perhaps tell.

Christmas is starting to be felt in the Philippines on the start of those months with the “ber” endings. During this time, the weather starts to cool down, business establishments and even houses are starting to be adorned with those decors. In my case however, I didn’t grow up to a family with a Christmas tree, parol (Filipino lantern), and those Christmas stockings. The modest decor that my family have is a set of blinking and singing Christmas lights. The weird thing is that I never remembered asking my Nanay (mother) of how come we didn’t have a tree. Perhaps, I was already aware of my Nanay’s prudence. If I asked her that question, I know what answer I would get.

The month of December is also something that I am looking forward every year. Aside from the holidays, this month also happens to be my birthday. Mind you people there are a lot of advantages and disadvantages on being born in this season of giving. One clear disadvantage is that my friends are somewhat saved from buying me two gifts! I should have two gifts even though it’s December! My birthday and the Lord’s birthday are two different events. One advantage on the contrary is that I sure have the money to treat everyone on my birthday. The Christmas bonus and my 13th month pay saved me from having a broke birthday.

But come to think of it, at the end of the day, what is really so exciting about Christmas? Is it really because we are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ?

My personal opinion and observation is that Christmas provides us the reason and the opportunity to experience the things that we don’t normally have in the remaining 11 months of the year. This is one reason that excites us for Christmas.

Christmas is the only time of the year when we make those Christmas lists, shop and wrap those gifts, attend consecutive parties, indulge on those meals, receive more money, rest for a while and enjoy time with the family. Things like these do not happen to us everyday. It’s only this season that provides us with this opportunity. Hence, we exert the time and effort in making the holiday a memorable one. And I believe that this is the more exciting part that makes the season. It’s the rush and all those preparations that we make that forms the excitement with the season. A lot of people complain of the holiday rush, traffic and the crowded places of shopping malls. But I personally feel that these hassles are part of the season’s excitement. Without the rush and bulk of people around, the Christmas fever will never be felt.

Enjoy the holiday rush and stress friends! This only comes once a year. I wish everyone a safe, blessed and happy Christmas!

Nothing but my name

This is actually a late post. My previous post should have come after this. Nevertheless, I am sharing it.

The past few days have brought me some silent realizations about life. Back when I was still studying, my Nanay (mother) would always tell me of how much sacrifice Daddy makes in order to finance my schooling. However, my Nanay’s repeated reminder appeared to be a programmable thing to me. Her reminder in effect made no real and hard impact on me. My response was too artificial. I just kept quiet and allow my Nanay’s words enter my left ear and escape to my right ear. When I ask Nanay to buy me something, she would maintain the same answer. She would further add that I should study hard, finish school and when I’m already earning, I am already free to buy all of my wants in life.

My mother was partly correct. Daddy worked and sacrificed a lot. The thing is even though now I am already working, I can’t purchase everything I want. Before, I was blinded by the idea that when I grow up and earn my own money, I could literally buy everything I want.

The concept of scarcity of limited income is ironically what I failed to foresee before earning my degree in Economics. I will soon work and earn money. But money is always limited and hard earned. Therefore, fulfilling my unlimited and growing wants is almost near to impossibility.

I don’t want anymore to detail where and how of my recent realizations came from. Unfortunately, most of my realizations were products of some not so decent activities, which I thought would never have happened and committed by some people I knew.

The bottom line of everything is that given the chance to choose between a highly abundant life vs. a sufficiently endowed life, I would choose the latter.

If having a highly abundant life would mean backstabbing, kissing someone else’s ass, demeaning others, taking advantage of weaknesses, receiving bribes, and all those petty to major dirty activities, then I am wholeheartedly turning my back on those pieces of material comfort and ambitions.

I choose a life where blessings and materials things are sufficiently enough. Never mind all the money if at the end of day, people silently curse and continuously utter accusations against me. I’d rather be called poor and dumb who is on the contrary prized by priceless honor and dignity.

I am not perfect too. I made those stupid decisions once in a while. I become full of debts because of my impulse purchases. I sometimes get annoyed of minor things. I also feel envious of other people’s achievements. I am lazy. There are days I just end up crying and pitying myself. I criticize other people. I am not the best teacher. I am perfectly imperfect.

I was born and still lives with a family whose name was too ordinary to be heard and found. The entire world does not even know my family’s existence. However, I am still thankful that I was placed in this type of family. I love my family whose only possession is having a silent and unadulterated name.

You are correct Nanay. I’m starting to feel your words. Those wants are just material things. They would soon vanish. Money is designed to be spent and not to remain in your hands. A good name on the contrary is a long term investment. It’s a continuing hard earned investment that becomes a priceless lifetime achievement. If I have nothing else in life, I have nothing to hold on but my name.

It will be Christmas and my Birthday soon…

Dear God,

I don’t know what are your plans for me and my family. But as always, I have no choice. I am forced to follow your will.

Barely months before Christmas and my birthday last year, you subjected me to this one big trial. You know how much suffering I endured those times. I cry myself to sleep every night, days before my birthday. But I decided to follow your will. I did what I knew was right, let go, forget and move on. Despite those moments of tears, grief and suffering, I am still thankful because it was over.

But this year, you gave me another source of pain and misery. It’s just days before my birthday. I hope you realize it. What is this again? After taking away an opportunity last September, you are again taking away something from me? I know it’s just money, but as you can see it’s more than the money. It’s about me, my family and all of my hardwork. You know how much I work hard for me and my family. Every centavo I earn for my family is a product of pure and honest hardwork. I did not steal anything. I honestly labored for everything I have right now. So why did you suddenly allow a chunk of my meager income to go to the hands of those ruthless criminals? I honestly feel that everything was planned and made in perfect timing. Perfect timing to ruin my birthday and the supposedly joyous season.

I definitely have no choice but to let this pass. I should move on and again work harder to recover the money that was heartlessly taken away from me. If you are listening to me, you know how I feel. You know how much more sacrifice I have to make. You know that despite of everything, I still need to wake up, report to work, accomplish my responsibilities, attend Christmas parties and act as if I am happy in this supposedly festive season.

I am sorry for feeling some degree of resentment. I and my family are now paying for the selfishness made by this ruthless criminal, days before my birthday and Christmas. How about that?

Whatever the reasons for this God, I will not be able to know and realize it today. But this is one thing I want to tell you, I have enough of everything. I know there will be more trials and challenges to come in the next years, but at this point, I feel that I already have too much…