MONSTRESS | Lysley Tenorio


Monstress: Stories is the book club’s book of the month for October. I love reading short stories and I’ve been looking forward to reading this compilation by a Filipino author during my birthday month. All of the eight stories in this anthology are excellent reads and I have a couple of favorites. This is one book that makes me feel proud as a Filipino because the writing is eloquent and the stories – they just strike close to home.

I loved how the author writes his stories. The narrative was fluid and the author writes very simply, not making any effort to impress. Granted, I was not instantly impressed by the first story but after two or three stories, I eventually became hooked. And the finale story was perfectly placed. Even though the main characters in all the stories are Filipinos and most, if not all, tell about Filipino immigrants in the US, non-Filipinos may still find the stories interesting and several characters are easily relatable. The stories all tell common themes as love, belongingness, and hope.

Here are my quick thoughts for each of the stories:

  1. Monstress. 3/5 stars. I must admit that this first story did not immediately impress me. But don’t get me wrong. I loved it but I was expecting something more dramatic as an opener, perhaps?  This is a deeply profound story despite the humor. The ending, for me, was brilliant because it made me think of the irony of how the love story of the two main characters ended up.
  2. The Brothers. 4/5 stars. This is a very sad story of two brothers whose lives ended up differently from each other. For one, the other brother was dead. It was not clear how he died but the specifics, I realized, are beside the point. This is a deeply emotional story about a  mother’s love for her son that pierced my heart.
  3. Felix Starro.  4/5 stars. This story brings back memories of when I used to watch TV exposes on faith healers who turn out to be “quacks”. I think it was novel for the author to bring this faith healer story into US shores. Very brilliant. And profound, especially that ending when Papa Felix said, “I helped that girl, more than she knows. Someday she’ll understand. You too, God willing.”
  4. The View From Culion. 4/5 stars. What made me fall in love with the book was this story. The author really loves his roots and his history. I loved how he portrayed Culion and how he was able to weave a story about the patients there. Again, the writing is very crisp and no-nonsense, and it does not try to be too dramatic but it still evokes deep emotions from me, nonetheless.
  5. Superassassin. 4/5 stars. I really enjoyed this story. It was different from the first four because it has a young boy as a main character. I guess it is safe to say that this is a YA story? The comic book references are very fun to read but that ending was really  troubling. Again, too much comics may be bad for a young boy’s mental health.
  6. Help. 4/5 stars. Now, this story really intrigued me. Since I am not a fan of the BEatles and Imelda Marcos, I had to ask my father if indeed the infamous band visited the Philippines and that they “snubbed” Imelda Marcos’s invitation to perform. I was surprised by the confirmation because all along I thought this was only fiction. The author knows his Philippine modern history more than I (haha!). This was a joy to read and I loved the “crime” parts, especially the “waiting for the crime” parts. Hehe.
  7. Save the I-Hotel. 4/5 stars. This is my first favorite story in the book. I loved the sentimentality and the heartbreak. Very beautifully written and every line seeped with sadness. But it is not all sadness. It is a story of loyalty and resiliency and enduring love.
  8. L’Amour, CA. 5/5 stars. This is my most favorite story. This was a really brilliant story to cap the collection. I loved how it was written and how the characters were portrayed. The backdrop about a Filipino family that migrated to the US was not new but I loved how the story slowly unfolded, and how it ended with that surprising twist. I am still haunted by that ending.

No question about it, I really loved this collection. This book will certainly stay on my shelf for years.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

My copy: A gift from Tin. (Thank you!)

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