Miscolta’s debut novel explores familial boundaries and the isolation that can persist in the search for a lasting connection.
After immigrating to the United States, Johnny de la Cruz makes just one trip back to the Philippines in 1971. During this visit, he indulges in a brief affair with a flirt from his high-school years, Bunny Piña. Fast forward 19 years and Winston Piña, after burying his mother Bunny, discovers a letter she wrote but never sent to Johnny. This beginning feels a little rushed; there seems to be another novel in the Philippines setting of Johnny’s childhood. Miscolta takes her time, however, allowing a relationship to build between the de la Cruzs and Winston, who, now curious about his paternity, seeks out Johnny. The years since his visit to the Philippines have aged Johnny, now a fragile older man with cancer. The de la Cruz schedule revolves around regular fussing over Johnny by his wife Tessie and three daughters—though their fussing is less often motivated out of concern for Johnny than it is an act to prove their worth to one another. Johnny, on the other hand, cannot decide if he welcomes or refuses the attention. Miscolta takes on a lot of characters, each with a unique perspective on Johnny’s illness, Winston’s appearance and life in general. The de la Cruz family navigates their interrelations that are simultaneously enhanced and threatened by Winston’s presence. Each member feels as though Winston belongs within the family circle and perhaps he’s been there all along. At times, however, the reader can feel as isolated from the characters as the characters are from one another. Though Miscolta assumes perhaps one persona too many, her transitions between them are seamless. She has moments of beautiful prose and exposes heart-wrenching loneliness. The author deftly demonstrates the lack of fulfillment and constant yearning for contact and love that come out of a failure to communicate.
A story about family, infidelity and isolation that falls short in some places, but is worth a read for its authentic emotions.