The US Review | When Writing Morphs into a Lifetime

When Writing Morphs into a Lifetime

Title : When Writing Morphs into a Lifetime
Author : Myrna Lou Jastra
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 58 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 163812678X
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1638126782
Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 5.6 ounces
Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 8.5 x 0.12 x 11 inches

“And as expected, he extended his hand again. She took it, unaware she was sweating and could not understand why all of a sudden she had nothing to say.”

Both a romance and an immigrant’s tale, this novel begins with a letter from Ermin Oro to Lor Arce. It asks Lor if she will write a short piece for the female edition of her hometown’s military academy’s official publication. Lor is a bit baffled as to how her name was chosen, but she agrees to send a bit of writing. On a university break, Lor spends time away from the capital and back at the small Philippine village she calls home. During her break, she attends a social and meets Ermin in person. Lor dances with a lot of men at the social, but Ermin never asks for a dance. He simply enters brief conversations with Lor during the interludes.

They continue to phone and send letters while pursuing their own goals. Ermin is pursuing a military career, and Lor has taken a job as a journalist and plans to do graduate work in America. However, although reserved, Ermin eventually professes his love for Lor and tells her he plans to marry her. Lor is a little overwhelmed and doesn’t really respond. Eventually, they part for some time, and once Lor sees him again, she decides to write him a letter telling him to move on without her. She is surprised that she doesn’t hear from him again and makes plans to go to America. A couple of years later, on an assignment for an article, she bumps into him again. He asks that they start over and marry right away. Again, the suddenness shocks her. She thinks about it for a day and decides to see him again. When they speak, Ermin has the wedding all planned out and scheduled to be held in about a month’s time. What will Lor do? And what about her graduate work in America?

Initially, Jastra’s protagonist brings to mind the writer Dorothy Parker. For instance, there is this strong young woman working in what was considered a man’s world at the time and making a name for herself with her writing. However, this comparison slowly fades as the novel progresses. Lor doesn’t have the same literary ambitions. As the story develops, we find the two taking their own turns living in America and earning an education there. Eventually, they will be able to live in America permanently. There are hints here of the immigrant’s tale, akin to Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee or The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. Although there are parallels to their journey, those books differ in that they focus more on the stories about what it is like to be a stranger in a new land and trying to live between two worlds. Jastra instead focuses on the success the couple finds in America and how their love story turns into generations of proud, successful US citizens.

The writing in this short novel is easy to read and flows in such a way that the narrative moves quickly. The best parts of the writing are focused on Lor’s internal dialogue when considering her options and writing Ermin’s letter of release. The setup of the book will have readers expecting one type of book, but when the quick wedding occurs, the narrative shifts dramatically to a family-oriented narrative. Readers interested in a quick story about how two foreign strangers became the successful beginnings of a new American family will find this book delivers.

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