The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal is everything one could hope it to be, proving yet again history is relevant and heavily influential on lives today. Roley brings you through intertwining stories of different members of the same family all living in America after life in the Philippines. The reader connects the stories of a Filipina grandmother displeased with her granddaughter being raised non-Catholic, a father that comes back in contact with his son after an attempted suicide, the stories from different members around interfamily romantic relationships and disability, the story of a young man in despair for his career in screenwriting, a woman that tried to escape an arranged marriage after becoming the most beautiful woman in the Philippines.
Each story builds on the presently slim collective of Filipino narratives and lives in America as time goes on and the variety of distances expands. Reading through different generational commentary and experience makes it possible to feel these periods through the characters’ perspectives. The reader engages with the war in the Philippines as well as the aftermath of it. The reader engages with the cultural standards of religion, marriage, beauty, the struggles with disconnected families due to a variety of reasons. Without realizing it, the reader is learning about the sacrifices and risks that countless Filipinos have had to make and endure to take care of themselves and their families. The end of every short story feels like a pause in a conversation — as if just a pause between moments. “The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal” serves as exposure and discussion around Filipino lives and experiences as well as all the things in between.
Roley effortlessly makes you feel what the character is feeling — the excitement, tension, embarrassment. The reader can sense the lack of connection from generational, cultural, religious, and familial differences. This collection feels easy to read and Roley graciously leaves the space to think, analyze and see the experiences and stories for what they are. All else that comes from that space is just a privilege of reading The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal.