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Descrição da editora
"My mother never writes. So when the mail arrived that day, I was not expecting to find a letter from her. There was no warning."
Between generations of women, there are always secrets--relationships kept hidden, past events obscured, true feelings not spoken. But sometimes the truth is so primal it must be told. Now, with haunting lyricism and emotional clarity, Arlene Chai has written an exquisite novel about a family of women who break their silence. At the center of The Last Time I Saw Mother is the singular story of a woman who suddenly learns she is not who she thinks she is.
Caridad is a wife and mother, a native of the Philippines living in Sydney, Australia. Out of the blue Caridad's mother summons her home. Although she is not ill, Thelma needs to talk to her daughter -- to reveal a secret that has been weighing heavily on her for years.
It is a tale that Caridad in no way suspects. She stopped asking questions about the past long ago; her mother's constant reluctance to answer finally subdued her curiosity. Now, it is through the words of Thelma, her aunt Emma, and her cousin Ligaya, that Caridad will learn the startling truth and attempt to recapture what has been lost to her. Arlene Chai tells their versions of the story in their own voices, each one distinct, moving, and magical. As each woman tells her part of their family's hidden history, Caridad hears at last the unspoken stories--the joys and sorrows that her parents kept to themselves, and the never forgotten tragedy of the war years, when Japan's brutal occupation and civilian deprivations helped destroy a country and its history.
The Last Time I Saw Mother is about mothers and daughters. It is about a cultural identity born of Spanish, Chinese, and Filipino influence. And it is about the healing power of truth. Arlene Chai is one of the most stunning new novelists in years. She takes us to a place we have never been before.
The central story in this interesting but uneven debut novel by Filipina author Chai concerns a woman who discovers the truth about her parentage. Caridad, a Filipino woman living in Sydney, Australia, with her teenage daughter, discovers on a trip home to Manila that her elderly mother, Thelma, is actually her aunt--and that her vivacious aunt Emma is her mother. Using multiple, shifting first-person perspectives, these three women, as well as Caridad's beautiful, bitter cousin, Ligaya, relate the long story of why this secret adoption took place. The voices of the four women are virtually identical, however, and sometimes lapse into cliched musings about life and love. More compelling is the seamlessly interwoven background Chai provides: 50 years of history in the Philippines--from the WWII Japanese invasion and its vividly recounted brutalities through the battle for liberation (in which systematic American bombing caused more damage than three years of Japanese occupation) to the Marcoses' 20-year rule and the subsequent People's Power revolution. Fascinating side lights illuminate the subtleties of race relations among native Filipinos and the other ethnic strands in the island's social fabric: "the Spaniards they feared and envied; the Chinese they hated and envied.'' Chai's prose is devoid of stylistic flourish and the narrative is often repetitious and digressive. When she tells of life in the evacuation camps or in war-decimated Manila, however, the descriptions are sensual and palpably detailed. Thus the truth about Caridad's past pales against Chai's evocation of her country's travails. $250,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild alternate.