At a river near his home in the Philippine countryside, respected doctor Manolo Lualhati encounters the unthinkable—a young woman with wings. After several incredible visits, he coaxes her to stay behind—to quit flying to the stars with her sisters each night—so they can marry. Tala agrees, but soon finds herself grounded in a new life where she must negotiate Manolo’s parents’ well-intentioned scrutiny.
As Tala tries to keep long-held family secrets from her new husband, Manolo begins questioning the gaps in her stories, and his suspicions push him even further from the truth. Weaving in the perspectives of Manolo’s parents, Tala’s siblings, and the all-seeing housekeeper, The Hour of Daydreams delves into contemporary issues of identity and trust in marriage, while exploring how myths can take root from the seeds of our most difficult truths.
The Hour of Daydreams by Renee M. Rutledge
Published: March 14th 2017 by Forest Avenue Press
Source: ARC via Netgalley
When I realised this was an own voices re-imagining of a Filipino folktale known as The Star Maidens, I knew that I needed to pick up a copy. (Erin Entrada Kelly‘s excitement for this book, may have helped boost it up the list too). The Hour of Daydreams is an atmospheric read. I recommend it to anyone interested in adult retellings with a lyrical magical realism feel.
The story within a story structure is one of my favourite storytelling structures, so I was pulled into the layers within. I’ve only read a few books that use this structure and capture a similar feel like Damascus Nights and Invisible Cities. I’m glad to recommend The Hour of Daydreams alongside them.
He believed in these facts, that there could be such a thing as an absolute truth. That symptoms had a cause; that medicine provided a cure. And yet, he could never forget the code of the duwende.
These different ways of perceiving the world i.e. the scientific and supernatural can often co-exist in the Philippines. It’s hard to explain to others how our folklore is woven into everyday life, which is is why I appreciate own voices stories like this one. I love the hints and nuances around the history behind the present folklore:
‘Neighbours…avoid stepping on the duwendes hiding under our feet, flee the coming aswang, hungry for the taste of their blood…these fairytales, the way they’ve taken root in the bodies of our people…Are we ghosts ourselves without them? Or is it the land itself that cannot sleep, packed with lost secrets and layers of bones by the millions, scattered for centuries across seven thousand islands?’
The story builds a quiet atmosphere filled with fierce longing throughout the book. The Hour of Daydreams is a complex story that tugs at the threads that people weave together. Tala and Manolo’s story explores the complexity of trying to understand a loved one. There’s also a subtle exploration of marriage and social expectations attached to it. I appreciate how it shows two different perspectives on love, folktales and the creation of one’s own story as it intersects with so many others.
*I also read The Hour of Daydreams for #AsianLitBingo in May.
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