Posted in Books, Reviews, romance

Book Review: How To Stop Time – Matt Haig

Its currently 4:30 am in the Philippines and I’ve had zero sleep because of jet lag. The only good thing that’s come out of that is that I managed to finish this book that I bought ages ago but only just decided to read.

This book had far too many similarities to The Age of Adaline and The Time Traveller’s Wife for me to be comfortable reading it when I wasn’t in the right headspace. As most of you know, I tend to get too involved in the lives of the characters I’m reading such that their emotions become my own. And as much as I love books like these, I know without a doubt that they never have a happy ending.

Tom Hazard looks like a normal forty-year-old attempting to teach history in East London. In reality, he is 439 years old and has lived through both the Great Wars, met and worked with Shakespeare, had drinks with F. Scott Fitzgerald and has witnessed all the defining moments of history. He has a condition called anageria, which means he only ages a year every 3 or 4 decades.

Tom is part of a society of people who are just like him and the idea is to protect each other from threat and exposure. There are a few rules: no photographs (difficult in this age of selfies!), move every eight years and of course, don’t fall in love. Apparently, this is the one thing guaranteed to drive you insane (I wholeheartedly concur).

It would be easy for me to dismiss this book out of hand if it turned out to be just another story of love defying all odds and impossibilities. Its not that; rather, the reader is allowed to go on a journey as Tom discovers the difference between existing and living. I think that this, this moment in time, is the perfect time for me to read this book.

You see I think it throws everyone off their game, turning 30 and realising that you’ve become a full-fledged adult with 3 decades of experience behind you. Being 30 comes with expectations, the word marriage is mentioned much more often (along with children, babies, etc). We spend so much our time thinking of, planning for and worrying about the future.

Its the same thing with dwelling on the past; there’s never any point in being stuck on the mistakes and the what if’s but we do it anyway, when in fact the only thing you should be doing about the past is learning from it. I think this is what Tom came to realise in this book. The secret to enjoying life is in enjoying the process; its the journey, not the destination after all.

For all its faults (that ending was a bit abrupt and tidy), the book is incredibly poignant. It reminds us that to live in fear is not to live at all. It tells us that things are going to happen that we won’t be able to control but just like a surfer, you should just be able to ride out the waves.

Everything is going to be all right. Or if not, everything is going to be, so let’s not worry.

As many of you know, I am a little bit obsessed with the concept of destiny and seemingly random moments that turn out to be the best thing that’s ever happened to you. So yeah, I found myself relating to this book and nodding along to Tom’s internal monologues. It can seem a bit much, but stick with it and you can see kernels of truth of like this one:

That’s the thing with time, isn’t it? It’s not all the same. Some days – some years – some decades are empty. There is nothing to them. Its just flat water. And then you come across a year, or even a day, or an afternoon. And it is everything. It is the whole thing.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. When I look back on the past 5 or 6 years of my life, its not the big moments that I relive when I need a good memory. Its the many small moments that I didn’t think amounted to anything at the time. I wish I was better at taking photos or that I had time to write about even the mundane things, because someday when time has passed me by these are the memories I’d fight to keep.

And lastly, just to get out of the depressing mood of that last paragraph, I think Matt Haig makes a case in point of what I’ve come to believe is a universal truth: the present is vastly underrated. We don’t appreciate the present until it becomes the past. What is so wrong with us that we can’t seem to just live in the moment? Life is far too short to be stressed all the time. Someone please remind me of this the next time I moan about being stressed!

I won’t tell you if Tom discovers the secret to stopping time, I’ll leave you to read that for yourself. But in a book with so many quotable quotes, I’d like to end with the one that really spoke to me:

If only we could find a way to stop time. That’s what we need to work on. You know, for when a moment of happiness floats along…

We so very rarely get true moments of happiness. When you do, hold on to it and enjoy it. That’s my secret for stopping time, anyway.

Posted in family, Filipino, relationships

Goodbye, Lolo.

Yesterday was the 3rd death anniversary of my grandfather. I remember so distinctly the moment I found out that he had passed away. I was on leave from London for the first time since getting my work permit. My father’s side of the family was having a reunion in one of the beach resorts in Cebu and we had just finished a scrumptious breakfast buffet.

I was trying to burn a few calories by doing my own version of swimming in the ocean (I can’t swim to save my life) when my uncle hailed us to come back to shore. I thought he was telling us we needed to check out soonish, but then he said that my grandfather (Lolo) had died that morning.

I went up to our suite to find my mother barely keeping it together. Being the eldest child, I knew I had to travel with them back to Samar (another island in the Philippines) so we can lay my Lolo to rest. I had a moment of self-absorption to be honest, because I had my holiday all planned out and that changed everything. But all my plans paled in comparison to the fact that my mum needed my support.

I did not have a great relationship with my grandfather. Because they live in such a remote area of the country I rarely had time to visit them when I started college. I was also quite a spoiled, judgmental teenager who could not wait to go back to the city every time we visited.

His drinking, and the attitude that came with it, really rubbed me the wrong way. I think I was 16 when I first started making it clear that I did not approve of it and I started to pull away. I might, in a fit of adolescent tantrum, have even said all this to his face.

I didn’t realise the value of family until I was much older and living in a city where I didn’t have them. Its only now that I know enough to be ashamed of my actions and to regret never cultivating a better relationship with my Lolo.

When I was 16 all I could see was the drinking and the person he became when he was drunk; I’d forgotten about how, when we were younger and could visit for much longer, he would make every effort to make sure we enjoyed our stay.

He’d catch fish for us, slaughter his chicken and pigs for us (sorry, I know this is crude), introduce us to everyone in the small town and tell everyone how smart we were; he’d sing karaoke with us, take us swimming in the nearby river and watch out for us. Back when we were young and able to appreciate the simple things in life more, we were able to appreciate him more.

My brother and sister were better with him than I was. You see, I went through a phase when I was so full of my own hubris that I thought I was better than everyone else. I had a holier-than-thou attitude that makes me cringe when I think about it now. London has been good for me in so many ways and in a way, living independently has made me more grounded and more appreciative of my family.

I never got to say goodbye. I thought I would have more time. We always think we have more time until we don’t. I can’t even remember when I saw him last (it must have been in 2011 shortly before I left the country), what I said, whether I was able to say I loved him or able to apologise for my shitty attitude towards him growing up, or to tell him that I understand about the drinking.

I visited his grave with my mum, my sister and my aunt and uncle yesterday. We organised a mass for him and said our prayers. It was raining and I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes but I was determined not to complain and to see it through. We then visited our grandma afterwards and we sat around while my uncle reminisced about his last day. It was a sort of catharsis for them all to relive it and to be relieved that he went so peacefully.

He inspired devotion in his children, despite everything. I’m sure they also found him challenging but they loved him so much that they’d travel from afar every year, even after his death, just to visit. He took care of them and made sure that they had good lives and a good future. That’s the minimum that you can ask of a parent and I’ve seen enough of the world to know that not everyone is so lucky.

He was a good man.

There’s no one on earth who can say that they’ve lived a life with no regrets; this is one of mine. I can’t go back and change the past but I can be better and do right by my remaining family in the future.

I think this is one of the reasons why I’m home this month rather than off exploring the world. You never really know how much time you have with the people you love. With my sister also home on leave, we’re a complete family for the first time in 3 years. That’s more important to me than climbing Machu Pichu.

Its ironic but I don’t actually come from a family where its easy to express words of affection. Words are wind anyway, its our actions that speak volumes. I will try to be a better person than I was to my grandfather but I also just wanted to write this blog as a love letter to tell him the things I never said and to say goodbye.

Rest in peace, Lolo.

Posted in Books, relationships, Reviews, romance

Life Lessons from A Man Called Ove

Ove and Romance

Maybe he didn’t write her poems or serenade her with songs or came home with expensive gifts. But no other boy had gone the wrong way on a train for hours every day just because he liked sitting next to her while she spoke.

 

 

People said Ove saw the world in black and white but she was color. All the colour he had.

Ove and True Love

Loving someone is like moving into a house. At first you fall in love with all the new things, amazed every morning that all this belongs to you…then over the years the walls become weathered, the wood splinters here and there, and you start to love the house not so much because of all its perfection, but rather its imperfections.

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Ove and Being a Man

Men like Ove and Rune were from a generation in which one was what one did, not what one talked about.

 

They say the best men are born out of their faults and that they improve later on, more than if they’d never done anything wrong.

Ove and Making Time for the Things That Matter

…all people at root are time optimists. We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.

 

Ove and Loss

Death is a strange thing…we fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take away someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.

 

Ove and Destiny

She always said all roads lead to something you were predestined to do. And for her perhaps it was something, but for Ove, it was someone.

 

Ove and Life

He went through life with his hands firmly shoved into his pockets. She danced.

 

One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead. And when time no longer lies ahead of one, other things have to be lived for. Memories, perhaps.

 

And just as a bonus, because this is also one of my favourite things in the world…

Of all the imaginable things he misses most about her, the thing he really wishes he could do again was hold her hand in his.

 

Sigh. You will fall in love with this book. Buy it now!

 

Cheers, bookworms! 😘

Posted in Books, Reviews, romance

Book Review – A Man Called Ove

In 2009, Disney Pixar’s ‘Up‘ was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. Before this film, there had only been one other animated feature nominated in this category (Beauty and The Beast). I was one of the millions and millions of people who watched this film, and I still hold the opinion that that Best Picture nod owes itself to the first 5 minutes of the movie, the most gut-wrenching, heart-stabbing, tear-inducing 5 minutes I’ve ever experienced while watching a cartoon.

A Man Called Ove will draw the inevitable comparison to Up because they have pretty similar themes and messages. For example, both will make you think about the things that we lost in the name of progress.

You see, I think that while the world has gone forward in leaps and bounds in many respects, we’ve also lost some of the essence of what it means to really value our relationships with other people.

We see other people as dispensable: if we lose one friend there’s always another follower on social media to ease the sting; not happy with the guy you’re currently dating, well, moving on to the next guy is as easy as swiping right with your index finger.

Reading this book gave me all sorts of feels. I mean, let’s start with the fact that it was exceptionally written. It was funny in a way that didn’t take away from the importance of the message it was trying to impart; it was emotional without being heavy-handed; the darker undertones were well-balanced with the lighter moments. Like a metaphor for life, it had its ups and downs, good times and bad times, the tragedy of loss offset by the many small moments that make life worth living. I absolutely loved every single minute of it.

Ove is a throwback to the days where, if something’s broken, you fix it rather than replacing it. He’s simple, straightforward and rule-abiding. He thinks that there should be a place for everything and everything in its place. He doesn’t talk much but he makes sure that when he does that it makes an impact. People think that Ove is bitter and taciturn, but he is one of the most caring and endearing characters that I’ve ever read about in my life.

Above all, Ove is loyal. He is loyal to the people who has somehow wormed their way into his life even as he tried to drive them away. He is loyal to his friends even when he’s feuding heavily with them. He’s loyal to stray cats even as they muck up his daily routines. Most of all, he is loyal to the love of his life, the one person that he would walk through hell for: his wife, Sonja.

This book is about a lot of things: friendship, finding your place in the world and finding a reason to live again. But at the heart of it, its about the love that one person is capable of feeling for another. I stumbled upon this book at a time when I needed a reminder of the kind of love that is worth waiting for.

In this age of Tinder, Bumble, match.,com etc., we need a little of reminder of what love and romance mean. Other people hear romantic and think unrealistic. But romantic to me has never been about the grand gestures; its not the Christian Grey hearts and flowers with a little BDSM version either.

Romantic for me is what Ove had with Sonja: constancy, stability, the kind of love where one would spend hours on a train going in the wrong direction just so he can listen to a girl talk about her favourite books.

Romantic is being there when their noses are runny with the flu; its being there to hold their hand and hug them through the failures and popping open the champagne through the triumphs. Its just about being there, really.

Ove says that every person needs to know what they’re fighting for. I would fight for that kind of love, that kind of relationship. I can only hope to find someone worthy of that kind of bond and I can only pray that I am also worth the kind of love and commitment that I’m looking for.

I didn’t expect a love story when I started this book, but in a nutshell that’s what this is: a love story of Ove and the people whose lives he has touched. Thank you, Frederick Backman, for this amazing book. I love it so much that I’m making another blog post about it. Click on the tag Ove to check out the other life lessons I learned from this gem of a book.

5 out of 5 stars! Get the book from Amazon by clicking on the image below.