Patron Saints of Nothing — Randy Ribay

Patron Saints of Nothing — Randy Ribay

“My tan faded. My tongue forgot the taste of tocino and Tagalog. I stepped out of tsinelas and back into my suburban life as if I had never left.”

So, I didn’t even finish the prologue before deciding this was probably going to be a good read. I really enjoyed the prose. It went by fast and packed a punch. Patron Saints of Nothing is an easy (but not simple) read that took me a little over a day to finish.

It is important to note that this book is written from a Filipino American lens, so a lot of what we see is colored by Jay’s perspective as a Filipino American MC. I thought that was one of the strengths of the book, and it hit close to home. When Duterte’s war on drugs started happening, I lost count of how many well-meaning friends cornered me to tell me what the Philippines should do about it, lol. I mean, it’s good in intention, but c’mon.

Admittedly, I was afraid that was the direction this book was headed, but while Jay certainly has strong opinions about what is happening, with a lens greatly colored (and at times clouded) by his upbringing as a Filipino American teenager, the author makes it clear that that is all it is: an opinion, and not the most important one. His self-righteousness is checked quite a few times.

That said, I did feel like Jay was bizarrely entitled sometimes. I understand he was driven to find out more about his cousin’s mysterious death, but he basically invites himself to stay with his grieving relatives (without having spoken to them in years), breaks into their private spaces on a hunch, and gets annoyed whenever he feels out of place, despite not having a plan and not speaking the language.

Parts of these little slips I feel for because cultural faux pas are sadly my specialty, but some signs of disrespect were hard to believe. Like you don’t just invite yourself to stay with grieving relatives and get in their faces about their dead son, lol. It just felt like Jay’s sudden awareness of what was happening, while good in intention, was more important to him than everyone else’s grief and feelings. And that sometimes softened the impact of the story.

Overall, I enjoyed Patron Saints of Nothing. I think it’s a solid book for Filipino American representation and a good reminder that this a completely different lens than a Filipino or American MC’s perspective. I encourage you to check it out!

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