America Is Not The Heart

America Is Not The Heart – a book review

I’ve been kept busy over the last few weeks reading America Is Not The Heart.  Written by Elaine Castillo, her first novel will be published through Atlantic Books on 3rd May 2018.

America Is Not The Heart

America Is Not The Heart tells the story of a Filipino family now living in Milpitas, San Francisco Bay area in America. Although really the novel focuses on Hero De Vera in particular, who’s led a few different lives and is trying to leave them behind her in the Philippines.  She arrives in America and moves in with her Uncle pol, his wife Paz and their daughter Roni. We soon discover that she’s staying in the country illegally and that she most definitely has a past, her broken thumbs are proof of that.

Hero and Pol both come from the wealthy and influential De Vera family, whilst Paz came from the other side of the tracks.  But Hero has been disowned by her parents and really needs to start afresh.  She keeps herself to herself but soon forms a bond with young Roni, who asks the questions about her past, when others won’t.  We also learn that back in the Philippines Pol was a well regarding surgeon, but in America he works as a security guard, whilst nurse Paz, works virtually round the clock to keep a roof of their heads and that of her family, who are there without papers.

As America Is Not The Heart unfolds we learn more about Hero’s past.  She was training to be a doctor when she became involved with the rebels fighting the Marcos dictatorship.  Hero would end up on the opposite side of the fence from her parents to their horror.  When she’s captured and refuses to betray her rebel friends, both of her thumbs are broken and she was left in the middle of nowhere.  The damage to her hands meant her career was over before it started.  Only her favourite Uncle could offer her hope in a foreign country.

It took me a while to really get into this book and quite a while to really form an interest in Hero and where the story was taking her. She meets Roslyn and we see their friendship develop and both realise that they are sexually attracted to each other, and ultimately that they are falling in love.

Throughout the book there are Tagalog and Philippine words and sentences peppered into the text.  I found these annoying as I was left guessing as to what the words actually meant.  I was probably two-thirds of the way through America Is Not The Heart before it really grabbed me, and then I really did want to find out what happened to Hero and whether she would finally be true to herself.  I can definitely recommend sticking with this novel, if it doesn’t grab you from the start.

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disclosure:  we were sent this item in exchange for an honest review

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