December 29, 2012
A Bottle of Storm Clouds: Stories
by Eliza Victoria
Confession: I had no idea that this book existed nor have I heard of the author before my wonderful bookish friend Tina marked it as her currently-reading book sometime last November, perhaps earlier. And then, the author herself rated one of my favorite Mitchell novels, Cloud Atlas, with 5 stars over at Goodreads, which popped up on my feed through Tina. (Anyone who rates Cloud Atlas with 5 stars has impeccable taste in books, ergo, he/she is someone I would definitely care to be friends with.) So on my next trip to the lone bookstore (that is not a bargain bookstore) at the next-door mall, I was elated to find a copy of A Bottle of Storm Clouds: Stories at the Filipiniana shelves. Needless to say, I bought it right away.
A Bottle of Storm Clouds: Stories is, obviously, a collection of short stories on Filipino myths, history, culture (pop or tradition), etc. My very first read for 2012 was Alternative Alamat, another compendium of short stories edited by Paolo Chikiamco, which I liked so much that I gave it 5/5 stars. If you have read that book or are at least familiar with it, then you would know what to expect in A Bottle of Storm Clouds. In fact, Eliza has contributed a story in Alternative Alamat which also appears in this compendium: Ana's Little Pawnshop on Makiling St. It was a wonderful retelling of Philippine folklore which featured Alunsina and Maria Makiling (shame on you if you're Filipino and you don't know who they are!) and, although not one of my favorites, was highly appreciated nonetheless.
So what are my favorite stories from the lot?
As shown in the image above, they are: The Storyteller's Curse, Reunion, and Siren's Song. The Storyteller's Curse gave me really, really good chills. Reunion was a twist on the biblical story of Cain and Abel, but it intrigued me so much mainly because it explored the concept of reincarnation - clearly not a Christian ideology. I liked Siren's Song because of the magic, tradition, and folklore woven into the story.
To sum it up, I immensely enjoyed this book: the stories were well-written, they weren't predictable, and they involved themes and ideas that are close to home. Perhaps I would have appreciated it more if I had read it sometime around Halloween, given its eerie settings, but since I don't strictly go for thematic reading, devouring this at Christmastime was no problem at all. Mutilated mermaids for company for the holidays, anyone? :)