The title and cover art of WHEN the de la Cruz Family DANCED (June 2011) suggests a genuine expectation of an amicable "la dolce vita" family narrativThe title and cover art of WHEN the de la Cruz Family DANCED (June 2011) suggests a genuine expectation of an amicable "la dolce vita" family narrative. However, any imminent likelihood of such a cursory expectation is abruptly squelched on page 21,
"…No one had said he was dying. And though no one had assured him he would recover, no one had said he would not…"
This incredibly astute debut novel profoundly delves into one man's deep-seated complexities, which lie tethered to his Filipino quixotic roots, and evocatively reveals how easily fragile family relationships can disintegrate when one person's isolation weaves a web of loneliness that encompasses all. Johnny's listless and daily introspection slowly creates fissures between his wife Tessie and his adult daughters Josie, Laura, and Sara. Despite his family's outwardly concerned and devoted posture, Johnny appears continually distracted and distrusting of their relentless presence and sycophantic efforts to enhance his cancer-ridden life. His perceptive personal thoughts offer ample proof that he has reservations about his wife's mysterious "errands," from which Tessie often returns a bit disheveled, and his disparate remarks regarding his adult daughters' lives evolve into a discernible detachment. Yet, faithful adherence to one generational old-world ritual persists as Johnny, Tessie, and his adult daughters gather for their Sunday dinners.
In a California city close by, sorting through his recently deceased mother Bunny's personal effects, nineteen-year-old Winston Piña unexpectedly finds a faded letter in an envelope addressed to Johnny de la Cruz. He reads it and wonders why his obsessively detail-oriented mother chose not to mail it. Spontaneous thoughts surface about his father's inexplicable departure to Ireland from the Philippines, never to return. Intelligent, charming, and curious, he decides to locate and visit Johnny—thereby unwittingly setting in motion the metaphorical "dance." Emerging secrets, past relationships, and vivid recollections provide the dynamic catalyst which surprisingly awakens this listless, somnolent family. Reflecting upon past joyful memories strengthens their personal resolve to be positively realistic, not only in the face of each individual's future, but also as an enduring committed family.
Adroitly written with characters as unique as this family's history, WHEN the de la Cruz Family DANCED does not falter nor does it disappoint. The amusing moments will charm, the unfulfilled dreams will crush, the candid emotions will disturb, but the palpable poignancy will endure.