angel de la luna and the 5th glorious mystery COVER
their stories entered my body
A Review of M. Evelina Galang's
"Angel De La Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery"
Melissa R. Sipin
M. Evelina Galang
Angel de la Luna & the Fifth Glorious Mystery
Coffeehouse Press, November 2013
Price: $12.00 | Purchase here
M. Evelina Galang’s deft prose came to me like the smell of storm. Her prose is fluid, lush, like swaying banyan trees and the unmoving sea, but it was the voices Galang crafted that stayed with me. The women of this book were full of life and singsong: there was anger, bitterness, and love which made the narrative alive in the midst of trauma. Angel de la Luna & the Fifth Glorious Mystery is the story of a young dalaga, a woman on the brink of an awakening, tethered between her country’s demands for equality and her mother’s desperate and determined will to survive. It begins in 2000, in the sweltering heat of Manila, and her father, a cab driver, is missing. The search for Panang leaves Ináy, her mother, broken, distant, gone, just like her father, but Angel has her sister and Lola Ani to take care of. The whirlwind of her father’s death leaves the family lost and adrift, but Angel finds solace in her Catholic school’s political movement. She marches the streets when the second Philippine People Power Revolution erupts in 2001. But when her mother reawakens from her morose slumber, Angel is abruptly lifted from her home, Manila, from everything she knows and holds dear, and is taken to a cold, distant city in the U.S. It’s here, surrounded by the gust of winds in Chicago, where Angel has her awakening: sexual, spiritual, and rebirth.
The narrative shifts in swift arcs, moving through the landscapes of Manila and Chicago like a film expanding and refocusing. But what shook me the most was the story of the Lolas (grandmothers in Tagalog): Filipina comfort women from World War II. I won’t reveal the plot, but when I finished the book, my body shook without volition, and a swell came from the belly to the throat: it was as if the lolas’ stories entered my body. Galang has been researching Filipina comfort women since 1998, and their stories imbue the intergenerational trauma and resiliency of Angel and her family. Although Galang did not intend to write a YA narrative infused with the spoils after loss (Coffee House Press marketed it as their first published YA book), she succeeds at weaving a narrative that speaks directly to the pangs and melodies of the heart.
Melissa R. Sipin is a writer from Carson, CA. She won First Place in the 2013 Glimmer Train Fiction Open and her writing has been published/forthcoming in Guernica, Glimmer Train Stories, PANK Magazine, 580 Split, and Kweli Journal, among others. She cofounded TAYO Literary Magazine in 2009. As a Kundiman Fiction Fellow, VONA/Voices Fellow, and U.S. Navy wife, she teaches at ODU. She blogs at www.msipin.com and is currently working on a novel.