Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Review: "Abi Nako, or So I Thought" by Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz

I can't stop thinking about Abi Nako, or So I Thought by Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz. Her memoir is so full of life and death, love and loss, horror and humor that I thought this more than once as I read her book, "This should be made into a movie!" But to say that seems like I'm reducing Joy's life into mere entertainment. It's not. It's profound and very sad. It's also very funny. It's a life so alive! It's a really good book!


Okay, I've gotten ahead of myself! This week's book review is Abi Nako, or So I Thought by Palanca awardee and creative writing professor Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz. Well, she'll always be Joy to me because I met her at the 1999 U.P. National Writers Workshop in Baguio, the same workshop where I met my husband. She is wildly funny and deeply serious all at the same time. But that was all I knew of Joy and nothing about her life until Facebook happened. And until Abi Nako. And oh wow what a life!

Abi Nako, or So I Thought is a collection of essays Joy wrote about love - her pursuit of love from men and women, her love for her children, her love for this country, her pained love story with her mother, her love for words and their meanings. It's a series of raw and brutally honest confessionals. It's quite the page-turner, but there were chapters that were so heavy and sad for me that I had to put it down. 

Yes, as with all of us, Joy suffered heartbreak many times over, but unlike most of us, Joy is so brave and relentless to wrestle with her demons and learn from them and then write about it with no fear of judgment. Joy writes about the Cebuano phrase "abi nako." In Tagalog, it means "akala ko", and diba there's a saying, "Maraming namamatay sa maling akala"? "Akala ko" is never a good thing. Joy writes, "The Binisaya dictionary tells us that 'abi' means 'to misconstrue, misread,' while 'nako' means 'mine.' In this language, my misconceptions are not only my own, I must also own them. Thus, I am not just misreading it; it is my own misreading."


Joy's book is all about her experiences of hoping for a better life and then getting her hopes dashed again and again. This is the man for me, or so I thought. Marriage will settle me, or so I thought. Moving to Davao for my lover is romantic, or so I thought. Abi. And then because Joy writes about all these hurts without whine or blame, she also takes responsibility for them. Nako

But it's not all gloom and doom. If there was bleakness to Joy's life story, it's swept away by her persistence to believe in new beginnings even if it means beginning again and again and again. It's her refusal to give up that makes this book so inspiring. It is full of hope. It is full of forgiveness. 

Please get a copy! The language is beautiful. I love words and this book was a love affair with words. 

Abi Nako, or So I Thought by Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz is only P450 and may be ordered from press.up.edu.ph. It's also available in the UP Press shops on Shopee and Lazada.

*Visit the blog every Wednesday night this June for my reviews of books written by Filipino mommies! Support mommies! Support literature! Support local! 

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