Book review for Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
(Kokila, June 18, 2019)
The Patron Saints of Nothing is a bit of a heavy read, but it is enlightening. It's a book that sheds light on the political and social state of the Philippines, a place that many in the US may not even be aware of. There are human rights atrocities going on and the world is looking the other way. The book provides some good education along with an interesting mystery and a variety of characters. There is heartbreak and frustration, but that’s reality and light needs to be shed on these dark secrets.
The protagonist, Jay, takes us with him as he informs his ignorance and becomes less self-centered and ordinary, and he develops into a more empathetic human. As he tries to find out what really happened to his cousin and who’s covering what up, he deals with unbending relatives who are steeped in tradition, sexism, classism, and ageism. And murder. Through the story, Jay evolves into an interesting, caring, aware young man. There are some delightful characters we meet along the way, who bring comfort to both Jay and the reader in the midst of difficult struggles. There are also infuriated people who you want to scream at (or worse). This book doesn't have a clichéd ending. Each conflict doesn't work out perfectly and the story doesn't end as maybe you're hoping or expecting. But some surprise developments leave a satisfying enough conclusion.
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