BOOK REVIEW: Banana Heart Summer by Merlinda Bobis
A Confection for the Heart
Summer, apart from being the warmest season of the year, is also the time in which people would flock together to look for perfect getaways or merely to get a break from the tedious monotony of life. Likewise, it is during this season when the monsoon refuses to blow that people become overwhelmingly thirsty – vying for a cold drink to assuage their thirst or craving for a dish that will make them forget the sweltering heat. In this novel by Merlinda Bobis, however, summer becomes the ‘eye of the storm’ through which Nenita must succumb in order to conceive the essence of loving and eating.
The heart of the matter…
‘Close to midnight, when the heart bows from its stem, wait for its first dew. It will drop like a gem. Catch it with your tongue. When you eat the heart of the matter, you’ll never grow hungry again.’
Thus goes on the myth of Nana Dora, the snack-vendor who drives Nenita, or Nining, nervous every time she resorts to ordinary speech. Nonetheless, the same goes for knowing the heart of the matter. It does not come to us as easily as small talk does. It is not as accessible as the banana heart either, for when one wishes to reach the core of the matter, it is imperative to delve deeper.
In the beginning of her narrative, Nining takes in the comings and goings of the events around her without understanding the real catch behind them. All she wanted was ‘to cook good, to eat good, [and]… to be good.’ Apparently, though, not everything goes on the way we wanted them to be, as when we try to resist our hunger but cannot prevent the ‘lengthening of the esophagus’, or when we must uphold our dignity even in the height of our starvation.
However, food is crucial not only to one’s body but also to one’s soul. The foods mentioned in the novel, for instance, carry a similar impression to those who eat them, like the palitaw. These rice paddies float when they...
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