I just finished reading the third Tournament of Books 2019 book, the final play-in contestant “America Is Not the Heart” . It’s up against “Speak No Evil” and “A Terrible Country“, which are both excellent books that I highly recommend that you read, and I’m pretty sure that it’s going to win.
“America Is Not the Heart” is an immigrants’ tale, a romance, a family saga, and a bildungsroman met in a Filipino restaurant and “America Is Not the Heart” came out.
Ignore the reviews that say that this is a difficult or confusing read. The characters have flashbacks every once in a while. That’s the big challenge of reading this fascinating book, full of rich characters and interesting glimpses into the history, culture and lives of Filipinos both in the Philippines and in the US. It’s a also a touching love story (with some pretty graphic sex scenes), a story about the importance of family, especially the one that you create for yourself, and a story about women overcoming PTSD (whether it’s from growing up starving poor or from being held captive and tortured in a military camp for two years). What’s amazing is that the result is an interesting book with a lot of heart that you just can’t put down, despite the tough topics it deals with. It’s a testament to the skill of Castillo that she manages to pull all that off, and in her first novel too.