[ I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. And it is quite a long review. I’m sorry. I ramble a lot. And I really loved this book. Please read it and discuss it with me because I actually cut this review short as it is!]
Book Title: Keep the Faith
Release Date: July 31, 2016
Author: Ana Tejano
About the Book:
As a community development worker, Faith was quite familiar with heartbreak and recovery after all the time she spent on disaster relief missions. So when her five-year relationship ends right before she left for a mission trip to a typhoon-stricken town in Iloilo, she tries not to make a big deal out of it. How can she be broken up about a breakup when she’s with people who literally lost everything?
But now that she’s back, all Faith wants is for her life to go back to normal and have people stop looking at her with pity. Never mind that she still has a lot of questions about the breakup, or that she feels a tiny ache every time her ex comes up in conversations. She’s okay now, and happily distracted by Nico Tamayo, the attractive new guy at work.
With new possibilities in the horizon, Faith thinks she is well on her way to moving on. But when her past comes calling back to her, will all the good things in her present be enough to keep her on the path? Or will she finally learn that there was more to heartbreak and recovery than what she knows?
Before we begin with my review, let me ask you one thing? Why do we read?
We often take for granted the reason why we read things. Maybe, you want an escape from the mundane of life. Maybe, we seek to find a piece of our souls in one of the books we peruse. Maybe, we seek worlds greater and far more dangerous than ours. Or the contrary – finding a safe place to be who you are and finding the freedom in between the lines.
For me, the answer is a variety of all these things I mentioned.
But until I started reading Philippine Romance Literature in English, I never really thought that maybe I read because I am seeking a part of myself in the books that I read. Until Ana Tejano’s book, I never realized how much it meant to me, as a Filipino reader, to relate to the characters of the book I am reading that we share the same kind of culture, of environment, of hopes, doubts, and fears, more than just sharing the universal feeling of falling in love.
Reading Keep the Faith felt like jumping into a pool of cool water at the height of Luzon summer heat: refreshing, in a way you didn’t even know your body is craving for that sweet relief.
Tejano’s book is about Faith Alvarez and how she tries to cope with life after her break-up with her boyfriend of five years. The story starts with her coming from a long relief mission in Iloilo, one of the island provinces in the Visayan region. For those unfamiliar with Philippine geography, Iloilo is uhm, really far from Manila. A few years back, Typhoon Haiyan struck the westernmost part of the region, destroying a lot of homes and taking a lot of lives as well. I am guessing that Haiyan is where we are getting this experience from.
But anyway, moving on.
So Faith is a development worker. She basically saves the lives of people who suffered from calamities and turned her passion into a career. But James isn’t exactly on board with her on that. He breaks up with her. He tells her, “He can’t do it anymore.”
(I agree with Nico; that reasoning is complete bullshit.)
Nico Tamayo is her love interest. He is also a new hire who sleeps on Faith’s desk while she was away at Iloilo. He is… God, where do I even begin with Nicolas?
*stuffs my mouth with a handful of French fries*
Nico Tamayo is the stuff of my dreams! (There, I said it!!) The first shot of him that endeared me to him was not the scene where he was first introduced. It was this scene where he was lighting candles at church, candlelight framing him. And GOOD GOD CAN YOU JUST IMAGINE A MANLY MAN, WITH THE ARMS THAT CAN LIFT MY EMOTIONAL UNAVAILABILITY, PRAYING TO GOD SOLEMNLY?
Goodness, yes. Yes, I am in love with Nicolas Tamayo and I am not even ashamed.
(He’s so perfect.)
So let’s go back to character analysis. Nico is perfect. And to a fault, I would say. He is a History major, passionate with his cause of championing education and children, like Faith, he is too giving, too forgiving. You can’t find anyone like Nico anymore. He is a rare and endangered cinnamon roll. And I guess, this may pain me to say, but yes, he does lack a little flaw to his character.
I love him, but I’d love to see more human fault in his character. (I’m sorry, Nico. I still love you, though.) The only time that he gets to be a little darker than his perfect, perfect self is at the precipice of the point of ritual death. (You’d know where this is when you read it! I loved that scene. I milk all the angst and heartbreak of that scene for all its worth.)
Faith Alvarez is a character that my reading mind can easily slip into. I wouldn’t say I can totally relate to her. I think she’s far too giving and selfless for me to properly relate with. But I think what draws me into her is how this tiny detail of her character that just resonates with me: how she seems so fine, she thinks she’s moved on, that she can do it again—live alone.
But she’s actually way in over her head. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there. This shared experience with her just made it easy to slip into her mind. Maybe it’s all the signs of denial she exhibits at the beginning of the story. Maybe, like her, I want to believe wholeheartedly that she’s already moved on. That she’s okay.
But it’s just so easy to fall back into bad habits. It isn’t easy to let go. Five years is a long period of time to overcome in just a snap of your finger. Holding on, when all you’ve done for the longest time is to hold on, is a conditioning that is difficult to break.
I love how the book did not go to the easiest and most used path where the main character and the new love interest just gets into a relationship really quickly, like this new hope of love magically heals all the heartache and pain that the previous one had inflicted upon. It doesn’t happen that way in reality.
I love how, no matter how really perfect Nico is, Faith was every bit realistic and dynamic as a character. She believed, she fell in love, she fooled herself, she hurt, she cried. Through her readers break and find it in themselves to find the strength to move on.
I really appreciate the pace and how the story handled this concept of moving on. Lately, this concept has been all the rage in Philippine Cinema. And reading this book is actually a little cinematic for me as well. Like, I can totally see it adapted for the big screen.
This vividness of the images and the story, for me, says more about how easy it was for me to resonate with the story because it’s just so very Filipino. More than just the settings, the way Tejano wrote the entire thing is engaging and captivating. And the little details of the life we live here in the Philippines? Our weather, our priorities in life, Metro Manila traffic, the disasters we always experience—all these tiny details perfectly, perfectly captures what and how it is to be a Filipino.
And books like Tejano’s Keeping the Faith is why I keep on reading and seeking myself.
Links to Purchase:
About the Author:
Ana Tejano has been in love with words and writing ever since she met Elizabeth Wakefield when she was in Grade 3. She has contributed several non-fiction pieces in print and online publications, and has been blogging for years. When she’s not writing, she works as a communications manager for a payroll outsourcing firm, and serves in CFC Singles for Christ in every other time that she doesn’t spend reading or sleeping. She lives in Metro Manila and is also known by another name in her other circles (but it’s not a secret identity, really).