After her plans for the future are disrupted by an unexpected breakup, Benni, born and raised in northern Ontario, seeks escape from her everyday routine by visiting her father in the Philippines – the fantastical land of ghosts and glamour that her parents described to her as a child. In the Philippines, Benni is captivated by the luxurious lifestyle of the wealthy members of her mother’s family. Canada, in comparison, is a bleak world of work, work, and more work, and Benni cannot understand why her parents ever left. During her visit, Benni finds much more than she bargained for: she discovers a world of poverty that supports the rich and the social restrictions that even the rich experience; she learns to value the honest, human relationships that come from seeking and reconnecting with family; and she comes to understand the importance of the stories we tell ourselves to construct and maintain our identity.
“Set in the tumultuous, vivid world of modern day Philippines, Shade explores such diverse issues of identity, multiculturalism, celebrity television culture, poverty and wealth, with prose that is as bright and brilliant as the country it depicts. Poignant but never sentimental, serious yet humorous, Mia Herrera follows in the great novelistic tradition of depicting characters who needs to get away in order to find out where they come from.”
—David Layton, author of The Bird Factory and Motion Sickness
Mia Herrera's short stories, feature articles, and reviews have appeared in various online and print publications like CGMagazine, Live in Limbo, Side Street Review, Hart House Review, and TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 7. She is a recipient of the Youth Scholarship Award from the Tatamagouche Centre and Writers' Trust Fund Scholarship. Shade is her debut novel. She lives in Bradford, Ontario.
I wasn't sure where to begin to review this book, for it left me feeling somewhat conflicted. On the one hand, I read it and enjoyed it, yet it left me feeling neither up or down. I just wasn't excited about it. On the other hand,Shade is an interesting story about a Philippino girl (Benni, who was born and raised in Canada) returning with her mother to the Philippines to meet up with her alcoholic, fun-loving father and visit her relatives, some of which are quite wealthy and famous (by Philippine standards), which is quite a surprise to Benni. This is Ms. Herrera's first novel and what I really found interesting was the insight it gives into life in the Philippines, both poor and wealthy. It also makes a strong argument for the strength of family.
This book was a good read because it was different from other immigrant stories. The young protagonist, a Filipino Canadian, has grown up in a small town in Ontario, not knowing very much about the Philippines. When she goes to the Philippines, she is surprised by her rich relatives who live in gated communities and live lavish lives with exotic fruits, servants, beaches... The book presents a reverse situation: Asia is not depicted as impoverished and Canada rich. This writer has potential.
This was a very enjoyable story about a young woman's personal journey discovering herself, and where she came from. Through learning about her family and her roots, Benni finds new strength and purpose in her own life and future!