“Complex, gripping, haunting and deeply human… a story alive with longing and pain and grace.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay is a powerful coming of age story that is unafraid to tackle several thorny issues heads on. Our protagonist is Filipino- American teen Jay who is on the verge of finishing high school and trying to drum up some excitement about starting college in the Fall.
He’s a very ordinary guy, not an exceptional athlete or scholar, he spends time hanging out with his friend and playing video games. When his father arrives home one day with the shocking news that his cousin Jun has died in the Philippines, and that he was in fact shot by the police as part of campaign against drug dealing, he is both confused and devastated.
The two boys became close as children, and though they had drifted apart with time, Jay still feels an urge to travel back to his father’s homeland and try to discover the full story of what really happened. Just as no person is one dimensional, no story has only one side, and as Jay’s quest continues he risks the wrath of his Uncle and learns that the truth may be far more difficult to come to terms with than he ever imagined.
Coming into this book I knew nothing about President Duterte of the Philippines, or his controversial “war on drugs” and the thousands of lives it has cost, and I found it truly shocking. I admire the author for shining a spotlight on such an enormous civil rights issue, and giving it a truly personal face with the tragic story of how it ripped a family apart.
This is not the only social issue that the author tackles, the book is a wonderful description of the immigrant experience, especially that of the children of immigrants, who can feel a real disconnect from their family’s culture. Obviously the book also touches on loss and grief, and what that can do to the individual and the larger family, and once again I thought the author did a really wonderful job.
I feel that this book, this story will resonate with me in a way that not many others have, it took me on a journey alongside Jay, and I felt every step of the way.
Added 10th September 2019