by Tweet Sering
To say I was pleasantly surprised by this book would be an understatement.
I bought this book off Amazon's Kindle store some months ago, because I was miffed at myself for having missed the sale on Flipreads (how could I??). At the time, I was completely bereft of any idea what Wander Girl was about. I hadn't planned on reading this soon, either. But since I finished reading all the books on my July reading list a few days before the month ended, I searched my shelves - physical and virtual - for some light reads, and this is what I found.
And I found that I enjoyed it. A lot.
Hilda Gallares is lost - more figuratively than literally. Her career is going nowhere while she's on the payroll of her mother's travel agency, but she doesn't have any idea what she wanted to do or what she was good at. Her relationship with Gabe isn't very ideal - she's tired of faking it, so it's become one-sided, and it's not hers. While she fancies travel and going places, the opportunities are scarcely going her way.
In the midst of this meandering, Hilda receives a sort-of wake-up call, and thereafter decides to get her act together and start the long-overdue trip to "finding herself." On the way, she meets and says goodbye to important people, and picks up significant lessons that will change her entire perspective on the journey that is her life.
It is hard not to enjoy a book where the main protagonist is much too likable because of her being real. Hilda could very well be the typical twenty-something Filipina of the 21st century who goes through a lot of heartaches and troubles before that much-awaited epiphany decides to grace her with its presence. I could easily have put myself in Hilda's shoes for all the things that she went through - I think every girl in her age bracket, i.e., 20s-30s, could, somehow or other, relate to Hilda. I know I did. :)
Despite the incomplete translations of the Filipino words and phrases on the Kindle edition, which I think would turn off non-Filipino speaking readers, I nonetheless thoroughly enjoyed the writing. It was witty, funny, oftentimes sarcastic, but generally light. The book was written in the first person POV, and as I said, Hilda is so real, you could see how her personality just leaps out from the narrative. When she feels fuzzy and kilig because of the flirtatious gestures of Matthieu the Frenchman, she'd say something like, "Pooootaaaaaah shhiiyyyyyyyeeeettt!" sans, however, the necessary translation for the benefit of those who do not know local cuss words. There were also dialogue that admittedly, would be too difficult to translate literally (especially with the word "na," which Filipinos who use Taglish are fond of), but that didn't diminish its appeal for me. Maybe I'm just saying this because I understand the language, but I think that, if those Filipino words or phrases were forcibly translated, the English equivalents would have altered the entire context of the narrative.
I also loved Hilda's list! This conjured up a lot of memories for me, from way back when. I recall how much I learned (and grew up!) from what I called The Checklist, and, very much like Hilda, wandered for years before I finally found what I had been looking for. Sounds like a song, but yeah. That's how it was. :P
An added bonus: this book was gut-splittingly hilarious, and there was one part when I had tears in my eyes from laughing out loud. Want to know what it is? Read the book and look for that "I believe" bit. :))
Over-all, Wander Girl is a fun, hilarious, and at the same time, heartbreaking story of a girl, lost and wandering the world in more ways than one, and who, after many wrong turns, encountering pit stops, getting stuck in traffic somewhere, and hitting humps and bumps every which way, eventually finds herself and comes home. :)