Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Quickstop Tuesdays is a recently new feature in My Book Musings where I will post reviews on Tuesdays about book/comic books/graphic novels that have less than 200 pages.  The book for today has 144 pages, and is by Filipino author Marla Miniano.

Title:      From This Day Forward
Author:   Marla Miniano
Rating:   ★★★★ 1/2

*Copy provided by publisher for an honest review.

There are some books that leave you with a pleasant feeling after finishing the book, and From This Day Forward is one such book. I didn't really know what to expect from the book but I decided to give it a chance. All I know is that it's about two people getting married, but I wasn't sure if they'd actually end up together. Before I go into more details, here is the plot...

When a couple gets married, it isn't just their lives that are thrown into chaos. For Nicholas and Nala's wedding, there's the mother of the bride who is forced to face her failed marriage; there mother of the groom, who revisits her past -- an old love; the bride's best friend who has lost the only boy she thinks she will ever love and with him, all her happiness; the bride's cousin who fooled around with her boyfriend's best friend (who inconveniently turns out to be the groom); and the groom's sister who cannot understand her brother's choice of a future wife.

Surrounding the bride and groom's happiness are the heartache, joys, hopes, dreams and realizations of the people who care about them. It makes you think: does everybody get a chance at happily ever after?

The book is a quiet, gentle read that takes you through different stories. It was a great morning companion for me, letting me have my peace while not emotionally affecting me too much. I can imagine myself at the beach (preferably Boracay!), under the umbrella shade or coconut trees, basking in the moment while reading From This Day Forward as I wait for the afternoon heat to pass by. I picked it up and didn't put the book down once. I just found myself reading along, caught up in Marla Miniano's talented story weaving.

There is a Table of Contents, with different titles per chapter. But then it turns out they aren't exactly conventional chapters after all; the book is actually a collection of several short stories, with some being told from the first point of view, and others were narrated, but every main character was connected to Nicholas and Nola. The titles are, in order: Homecoming, Safe and Brave, The Only Single Girl on New Year's Eve, The Middle, It's Complicated, A Very Strange Aversion, and House Tour.

I thought the first chapter was about Nola's relationship with her mom, but it was so much more than that. It was about Nola's relationship with her mother as well as the strength of her mother being tested with Nola's announcement of her engagement. I think the point of the chapter was that Mrs. Montano is starkly reminded of her failed marriage, and perhaps her fear that Nola's might end up unhappily, too. But like a good mother, she faced her fears and congratulated her only child.

Of all the chapters, I think I liked the second one, Safe and Brave, which is about Mrs. Roces' dislike of Nola for her son Nicholas. She thinks that Nola is too unkempt, too carefree, not caring about anyone else. She had to face her old lover, her very first strong love, to get back her heirloom rings to give to her son Nicholas. While reading the chapter, I realized why Mrs. Roces doesn't like Nola -- she was too much like Raphael, her old lover, her crazy, big love at one point in her life. I'm glad though that she did not get in between Nicholas and Nola. Some mothers try to intervene, try to break up the engagement. But her, no matter how afraid she was that Nicholas and Nola might end up estranged, she still supported them and even gave them a sweet note.

I was able to relate to The Only Single Girl on New Year's Eve and The Middle, not because someone I loved suddenly died and I was left all alone, or that I was in a relationship where cheating occurred, but it did remind me of my first two relationships. I thought we were going to last forever and ever. But with my first ex, one day it was just over. No warnings; I didn't see it coming. We never talked again after the breakup day, but for months I was lost. I stopped eating and lost so much weight. I couldn't understand why it ended the way it did. In a way, I felt like my ex died. And it took me, regretfully, more than four years to get over that one year and one month relationship. But eventually, I did. Thank God.

It's Complicated also took me by surprise. It was just a chapter of poems, all signalling how Nola felt at one point. In one of the poems, there were hints that Nicholas did something wrong in the past, but he tried so hard to change ("You are better now, don't fumble"). The line feels like a  tall order, but maybe it was needed for him to move forward; to succeed; to move on. Sometimes we need to be told that we cannot fail so we can save our own self; so that we will not wallow in the past.

A Very Strange Aversion was a fast forward to the future. This was about Laura, Nicholas' cousin, who used to dislike Nola. In the end, they became quite good friends. Her story is too good for me to spoil for you. But in true Laura style, it was crazy and not out of character for her.

Last is House Tour, fast forward to 20 years into the future. The narrator is the unnamed daughter of Nola and Nicholas. At this, I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that Nola and Nicholas did last. There were also some tidbits of how Laura eventually ended up. And her story is so real, it can happen to anyone.

Nicholas sounded like the perfect guy, but it felt like he was just pressured to be one. Or at least he was actually a jerk prior to meeting Nola but he tried to change, to be better. They were opposites of each other, but they sounded like they were just what the other needed to be balanced out.

What I find missing in the story is what happened to the other characters. Did Mrs. Montano move on from her husband, or did Nola's dad come back to her mom? Although that's highly unlikely. I'm hoping Mrs. Montana was able to move on. Did the best friend find another love? Did she let herself truly move on? Did Annika find someone else? I wish these were answered, not because the story was lacking or feels incomplete, but because I have come to like them and hope that they have found relief from their broken hearts.

Before I end my review, I would just like to give props to the cover. Even the cover is understated, but still exuding femininity and gentleness. No drama. Plus, I like the material used for the cover as it feels more sturdy, unlike other paperback books.

Not all books need to be dramatic to make an impact, to be recommendable. Sometimes, we just need a gentle book to pass the time and still give us good vibes, or inspire all these questions, that maybe you don't even know you need to affirm for yourself. For lovers of chick lits, or those who love a good story (or five), or those who just devour romance, do give From This Day Forward a try. It is currently available at all National Bookstores nationwide. Also, do check out other Summit Books online.

After reading the book, I suddenly remembered that not every relationship lasts; we don't always end up with THAT one person who made us feel so much joy, happiness, or even grief. I ended up sending my friend several questions about love, mostly inspired by Safe and Brave, which I will now leave you with:

What if you found the one you feel so passionately, madly, crazy about, but you end up parting ways (for whatever reason), and he's your one big love, but someone else comes along and the relationship feels right

Is it a matter of choosing to love the new person as much as you did the first one? 

Or do you think we can only feel that one big passionate crazy love once in our lives?

Ciao, and happy musings :)