Why a Filipina is affected by Cecelia Ahern’s The Book of Tomorrow?

I am a fan of Cecelia Ahern. I started reading her books last year, starting with There’s No Place Like Here, PS I Love You, Love, Rosie and The Gift. I haven’t read her entire collections but I’m really amazed by her writing style. Ahern just know to weave sadness, happiness, grief, learning and magic in one overflowing masterpiece.

I just read her latest book in 2010, The Book of Tomorrow. I’m giving my personal review of the book and some sentiments over my nationality. Read my full review to find out how these two factors become intertwined.

The novel is about Tamara Godwin, a teenager who was once endowed with all those material wealth in life. Tamara’s secured and comfy life soon vanished when her father ends up committing suicide. Tamara never knew that her father was suffering from a financial dilemma. The death of Tamara’s father was not the limit of her misery.  In order to pay for all the debts he incurred, they have to give up their house in Dublin and other assets. Grieving and homeless, Tamara and her mom ended up moving to a far away province in Meath. Tamara and her mother moved with Arthur and Rosaleen, whom she knew as family friends.

Adjusting life away from the city, having a depressed mother who doesn’t speak and being housed with a mysterious couple led the evolution of the story. A change in Tamara’s life in Meath was further influenced with the arrival of the traveling library. A padlocked book, which happens to be a diary, came to her possession. Imagine having a diary where you could read the things that are just about to happen tomorrow. The entries in the diary, Tamara’s struggle of making her mom return to her normal life, the dark secrets kept by Rosaleen, and the nasty adventures of a curious teenager, all combined to wheel the story.

The diary was very instrumental in the novel. However, I find some lacking details over the diary. In particular, the novel did not give me sufficient justification of where did it really come from. All that was mentioned was it came from the traveling library. Why did the diary land to Tamara’s hands?  What was the magic that causes the diary to unravel the untold tomorrow?

The earlier part of the novel had a sluggish start. However, the chain of events, mysteries, revelations and all those questions left unanswered will make you become hooked over the story.

The magical element in every Ahern’s story is very evident in this piece. From the diary, to the mysterious castle and the real identity of Tamara, Rosaleen, Arthur and the people living in the house across the street, each of them has their own story to be told.

The story went almost to its near perfection except for its concluding parts. The ending piece of the novel almost resembled the plot of a typical Filipino soap opera.  Common endings of soap operas in the Philippines would reveal unknown family ties and relationships. The protagonist is the child of the antagonist. The antagonist and the protagonists are siblings. The protagonist or the antagonist was only an adopted child. The father of the protagonist and the mother of the antagonist used to be lovers. The antagonist has a hidden love to one of the family members of the protagonist. These are usual trends among Filipino soap operas.

When I found out that Tamara was the daughter of mysterious man living across the street,  Rosaleen was the daughter of a servant who fell in love with her master’s son, The master’s son was the brother of Arthur and the real father of Tamara, Arthur was the knight in shining armor of Rosaleen whom she doesn’t really love, and Jennifer (the mother of Rosaleen) has been hiding something from the real identity of Tamara; all of these outcomes made me feel like I am watching the ending of a 30-minute daily soap opera.

Unconsciously, I am comparing Ahern’s work to a typical story line of a soap opera in the Philippines. This now reminds me that I have one major concern and question to Ms. Cecelia Ahern.

Part of the story’s character line up was Tamara’s Filipino nanny named Mae. Except for the fact that Tamara remembered Mae for loving to watch those crime related shows,  no disgusting accusations were made about the Filipinos.

I hope this entry or my query would personally reach Ms. Cecelia Ahern. I also hope that she would provide an honest response. Is it really necessary to name a Filipino nanny in the novel? If I were to be asked, I think the novel could survive without making a specific mention as Tamara having a Filipino nanny. The story could evolve with Tamara having a nanny. Mae, being portrayed as a Filipino, has nothing to do or influence with the development of the story. What is really the point of having to emphasize Mae as a Filipino nanny?

Why of all nationalities in the world, Ahern chose to identify the nanny as a Filipino? What prompted her to make Tamara’s nanny as a Filipino? Did Ahern personally have a Filipino nanny? Did she somehow have the same experience with Tamara on having a Filipino nanny?

I am making these questions because I am a Filipino. I am bothered when other foreign nationalities demean us just because a number of my countrymen are forced to accept all the low skilled but decent jobs abroad.  

I know for a fact that a significant number of our labor populace is comprised by the Overseas Workers. Perhaps, a greater percentage of them work as household helpers. Being a household helper or a nanny is an occupation which other nationalities may consider as a low skilled job. I am however not ashamed of my fellow Filipinos, who are forced to accept these jobs, in order to decently live and uplift their families. What affects me is how other nationalities could belittle my fellow countrymen who have the purest intention of giving their families a better TOMORROW.

Before other nationalities and other writers would tag or impliedly label as a nation of nannies, please be fair and consider our story too.  Do you think that our Filipino overseas workers would still work abroad if they have a better life in our homeland?

I am thankful of my countrymen who were forced to become nannies because they are showing to the world the honest, dedicated and kind hearted Filipinos. I’m sure that people will agree that the best nannies and workers in the world should also possess those unadulterated traits. I am saddened over some people  who couldn’t see and appreciate the efforts and sacrifices of my hardworking countrymen.

To Ms. Ahern and all the other writers in the world, the words that your pen are producing are both constructively and destructively powerful. Given this power and freedom, please choose the constructive path.  Your Filipino audience would love you more if you would choose to uplift my countrymen who only have the purest intention of sacrificing to have their own better BOOK OF TOMORROW.

A Laugh-Out-Loud Read for the Halloween

I just finished reading Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella and if I would rate it, I would give it 5 out of 5 stars!

My friend Anne was the one who first purchased the book around December of last year. Over the holidays, Anne told me she finds the book super hilarious. This is something I never expected because I thought the book deals about some ghost story.

I bought the book with a little interest over it last month. I did not care to read it because I was engrossed reading Eat Pray Love.  But when I finished the book today,  I was a bit regretful of not prioritizing it. It was an endearing yet a hell of a laugh-out-loud work of Kinsella. If you appreciated Kinsella for her Shopaholic series, you will love her more for this book. You will realize that Sophie Kinsella is more than the goddess of the Shopaholic series.

The story’s protagonist is Lara Lington. However, I think the story evolved much on her great aunt Sadie who was a ghost. So as you can see , there’s this ghost element which makes the book fitting for a Halloween read. Sadie kept bombarding Lara to help her find her necklace. Yes, it’s only a necklace and not some unfinished business or a kept secret of  a dead person. Since Sadie is a ghost, only a limited people see and hear her. Unfortunately Lara was the only one who could both see and hear her.

The initial mission of Lara was to fulfill her promise of returning Sadie’s necklace. The book cover of my own copy provides a sneak preview of the necklace.

However, a lot of things and events came in as Lara was fulfilling her mission with Sadie. Lara was left alone by her best friend Natalie to run their newly established recruitment or headhunting company. Lara was desperate to reconcile with her boyfriend, Josh, who broke up with her for no concrete reason at all. Lara also discovers some secrets of his business tycoon uncle, Bill Lington and daughter Diamante. In the course of the necklace hunt, great aunt Sadie forces Lara to date Mr. American Frown named Ed.

Aside from the adventures and misadventures, Lara finds her way realizing the importance of family and unintentionally falling with love with Ed.

Kinsella’s Twenties Girl embodies the typical humor element in her Shopaholic series. But what I appreciate in this work is the emphasis on family relationships, women empowerment and making me believe that somewhere along the way… one would always find love. (Damn!  I’m getting so cheesy!)

This now makes me realize that these three elements are always present in Kinsella’s works. Rebecca Bloomwood of the Shopaholic series, Emma Corrigan of Can you keep a secret?, Samantha Sweeting of The Undomestic Goddess and Lexi Smart of Remember Me are all females. Kinsella’s vision of the protagonists should always be a strong, hilariously stupid but a renewed and redeemed female character in the end. Family is always part of the characters’ line up and finding “the one” is part of her sweet happy ending.

Kinsella emphasized the important role of the family in Lara Lington’s character. When everything else fails, the family is always there. Your family loves you with all your failures and wrong decisions in life. Kinsella’s depiction of the family are people who will always love the perfectly imperfect person in you.

Every woman is destined to redeem herself amidst those antagonists and failures in life. Kinsella have shown in the novel that women are capable of doing those stupid, crazy and unnecessarily nasty things. But at the end of the day, she learns from it and stands up as a more empowered person. This is what exactly happened to Lara Lington. With the help of Sadie, Lara used her failures to cross the bridge leading to success.

Every woman will have her own unique and romantic fairy tale. This is I feel an implied message that Kinsella wants to communicate to her female readers. Somewhere, in your journey, the right man will come along. When this happens, all things will suddenly fall in the right place.

The only weakness I felt in the novel was a little element of predictability when Lara discovered that her Aunt Sadie’s portrait was sold to the London Portrait Gallery. I already had a feel that Uncle Bill was the one who sold it. I also then predicted that after all, his uncle’s concept of two coins as his path to business success was a fake.  Lara’s blooming relationship with Ed was also something I already expected. Ed by the way was responsible for the title of the book.

If you are looking for some light, hilarious but romantic read, then Twenties Girl is one of the best choices. It’s a chick lit that will leave you a laugh-out-loud, touching and romantic feel at the end of an ordinary or a tiring day.