“It’s like an infestation of the mind, these fairy tales, the way they’ve taken root in the bodies of our people. Are our lives so bland that we need this magic, this spice to fill up the holes? Are we ghosts ourselves without them? Or is it the land itself cannot sleep, packed with lost secrets and layers of bone by millions, scattered for centuries across seven thousand islands?”
The Hour of Daydreams is lyrical and fantastical while somehow weaving its way within Filipino culture. Early in the story we learn that Manolo Lualhati falls in love with a woman Tala, who seems otherworldly. She will become his wife and leave behind her own sisters, family and learn to embrace the traditions of Manolo’s own. As a man of medicine, the reader understands how the people of his village cling to natural remedies and superstitions even when it comes to their health. There is plenty happening in the novel, blending magical realism with the heavy demands of reality, we wonder what is true? Is Tala really something special, or is their love story the same as all others? He first finds her bathing in the river with her sisters in a place that the superstitious believe has vampires and demons, hence they avoid it for the safety of their lives. Could it be that the bathing beauty has wings? For she speaks to the water, is beautiful and graceful beyond compare. When he gets what he wants, and she becomes his, he is left feeling that he has somehow transgressed, as if by gaining such perfection and love in his life, he is doomed. It isn’t long before he is obsessed with following his beautiful wife, he has to know what she does and why. Whom that has ever loved realizes how we murder the very thing we worship by searching for flaws or digging for secrets. Trust and honesty are vital in any relationship as is freedom, freedom to still remain whole as a person. As in any love story, the reader is raking through the muck to discover what is real and what is imagined. Is the wild folklore to be believed? Or is the magical meant to disguise the painful realities? All we know is the daughter from their union doesn’t know who or what her mother really was. From whispers of her peers that wait to see if she too will sprout horns or wings to the love filled memories of her family, she is in the dark and searching for the truth of her mother, long gone now. All she knows is that she feels her mother abandoned them. Her mother, she tells us, was just an ordinary woman that left a gaping absence. Is she right? Or do the villager’s superstitious beliefs hold true? You have to read.
The writing is beautiful and the fantastical elements that alter the ordinary painful love story make it more than just another story of loss. I was unfamiliar with the traditions and superstitions, and admit to loving any sort of myths other cultures create. All of our stories, in the end, are built on belief systems whether we embrace or deny them and say a lot about our culture. There remains a heaviness, because while their love is magical it almost seems poisoned by doubt and jealousies, like so many other love stories. We spend so much time wanting love only to create obstructions with our insecurities and disbelief. The story jumps around at times, which could be confusing for some, so find a space free of disruption while reading.
Lovely and sad. For anyone that enjoys magical realism and honest love stories about other cultures.
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Forest Avenue Press