Book Reviews
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Beautiful, Beautiful Memories – After the Birthday Party

After the Birthday Party: Tales of Love, Loss, Hope, and Regret

This is a surprise. I didn’t consider adding our little book of memories here at Goodreads. Yes, I said “our” because this is not my work. I may be attributed as the Author, which I changed to Editor, but it really is the collective effort of my beloved friends at our book club, The Filipino Group.

The project was sparked by the reading of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. Miss Kenton said to Mr Stevens that we cannot be forever dwelling on the what-ifs and could-have-beens. One has to move on. But aren’t there occasions when we sit over a cup of cocoa, watch the pouring rain, and relive our unforgettable, and sometimes painful, memories?

I thought it was an easy task. We all have our memories, and what better material does a writer have than the unique experiences that he or she has gathered through the years? Yes, reminiscing our tales of love, loss, hope, and regret isn’t so hard in itself, but the associated feelings complicate the act. Putting them on paper is another matter. I then realized what a demanding task it was, and what pain and discomfort I have caused my friends. I felt that I was having a therapy session with each contribution, so if it was hard enough a task for the contributors, just imagine how many times I had to fix myself for having my heart broken every time I read a new one.

Memory is such a mysterious thing. It is like a television on mute switching from one channel to another on its own, making it hard to ignore. You may temporarily control which program to watch, but it will inevitably change to a different show the moment you start to lose your will in controlling it. And you wonder, do you own your memories, or do they own you?

I am quoting myself. That is lifted from the first entry, Birthday Cake, which deals with the indelible memory of my stepsister’s first birthday party. It may be just another retreat story for the rest of the world, but what makes it so special is that it is mine.

This is true with all the tales included in the project. They may be stripped of their individual authors, but they evoke strong feelings of empathy. They are real love stories. They are real family dramas. They are real desires and aspirations. And they are written by real people who happen to support my little assignment.

They are the products of readers who may have never published anything, but who are courageous enough to deal with certain realities of life. Who would ever want to relive memories of family death? Who would ever want to recall relationships that failed? Who would ever want to recapture the harsh days of poverty?

And yet, we still do. We always do. It is a necessary act for us to have a better life perspective and for us to fully realize how blessed we are. We may have summoned our own little demons, and we do so to cast them aside, to make us stronger than what we think we are, to be grateful for the grace of God, and to value the virtue of hope.

Not all stories are about the bad memories. There are also the good and happy ones, and the existence of these is a proof that life can be bountiful. Memories of the unexplained first love and memories that are yet to become real memories are told with good-hearted bravura.

But we don’t segregate the good from the bad memories. It is only my manner of speaking. Our memories are more or less a representation of who we are, hence, we should take pride in them. And in all these tales of love, loss, hope, and regret, there is something that we have attained. We have somehow captured, compiled, and transcended them beyond human life.

5 star - it was amazingI admit, not everything is pitch-perfect in terms of literary skill. I don’t think I was even able to edit the stories properly, but I fear that the mere cutting of a sentence destroys the essence that the contributors wish to capture. This is not to say that there’s bad writing here and there. It was actually a surprising revelation, one that shows promise in the pieces.

And really, we don’t mind that. The knowledge of life between the words makes the reader throw all standards of literature. For what is literature if not the containment of life in letters, regardless of being fictional or not?

And I believe there is no closure, as it is in good literature, for we will always hope as long as there is an abundance of it. My warmest thanks to all the contributors. My promise remains: you will be anonymous. And yet, I will never forget your names every time I flip our little book over a cup of cocoa, waiting for the rain to pass.


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