03 July 2011


Option 11: Banana Heart Summer by Merlinda Bobis
(Visit the new Giveaways page to learn how you could win this book!)

The sound of deep frying was a delectable melody. Instantly loud and aggressive, when the turon hit the pool of boiling coconut oil, then pulling back. The percussion was inspired to be subtle.

"Ay, it sounds and smells like happiness," I said, nose and ears as primed as my sweetened tongue. Happiness that is not subtle at all, I could have added. Such is the fact about the turon, which is half a slice of sugar banana and a strip of jackfruit rolled in paper-thin rice wrapping, then dusted with palm sugar and fried to a crisp brown. How could such fragrance be subtle? My nose twitched, my mouth watered, my stomach said, buy, buy.

"So you're an expert on happiness?" Nana Dora asked. Her face glowed with more than sweat and fire from her stove.

This post is doing double duty for my June Giveaway (which has obviously just spilled over into July) and the Foodie's Reading Challenge I signed up for last year but haven't read anything for until now. This wasn't one of the books I originally committed to read, but it has proven an effective appetiser.

Merlinda Bobis hooked me with that first scene of frying turon--one of my own favourite snacks from childhood--and the idea that happiness has a sound and a smell, and presumably, also a taste. Anyone who loves food knows exactly what happiness tastes like.

Note that Banana Heart Summer is also available internationally
--and that the international cover is prettier. =/

Our twelve-year-old protagonist Nenita might be too young to be an expert on happiness, but she knows what a lot of things--and a lot of people--taste like. Some are as as simple and straightforward as raw fruits and vegetables; others are complex dishes with a balance of several ingredients. That's because everything and everyone has a story; and as she tells the reader, "Every story has its own taste." But we don't always taste the same things: even when a storyteller speaks in a particular flavour, "I know the words taste different on your tongue."

So you might not know precisely what she means when she compares a first crush to a bowl of halo-halo . . .

". . . orange sweetcorn, red and green gelatin cubes, red and white sweetened beans, purple sticky yam, opaque white coconut balls, raisins, diced sugar bananas and other [colourful preserves] . . ."

. . . all piled onto a heap of shaved ice and drizzled with chilled sweetened milk:
the perfect treat for a sweltering summer day.

But if you've had a first crush who paid special attention to you one afternoon, when you least expected it, then you know what it tastes like. It'll just be different on your tongue. =P

And that's the way it should be because we all taste things differently. Just as a horrified Filipino boy learned when his American hosts offered him rice salad, serving the grain cold and hard when he had only ever had it hot and chewy--and as his American friend finally figures out when the tables are turned and he, as the Filipino's guest of honour, is allowed the pleasure of sucking the eyes out of a fish head (which delicious delicacy, I believe, Americans remove before serving a fish dish at table). So don't feel too bad that Banana Heart Summer doesn't come with free samples of everything! LOL!

Nenita has a story, a taste and a recipe for everyone on her street. Some of them, like the betrayed wife Corazon Alano, get enough tastes to transcribe a character arc. (See Character Connection 29.) There's not much plot in this story of a summer, just as there's not much plot in the journey from appetiser to dessert, no matter how many courses you take in between. (I have a feeling some chefs would argue with me there--as would Bobis herself.) And yet this novel edifies. I challenge you to read Banana Heart Summer and not feel full after you finish the last line.

You should choose this book in the giveaway if . . . you like your characters varied and your prose rich and sticky.

Image Sources: a) Banana Heart Summer by Merlinda Bobis, b) Banana Heart Summer international cover, c) Halo-halo


Her Royal Orangeness said...

What a lovely review. You reminded me how much I enjoyed this book. And the halo-halo looks delicous!

Shaz said...

I loved this review! I couldn't agree more that happiness has a taste, and yet I am constantly reminding myself that nothing tastes as good as thin feels. (Sigh).

Enbrethiliel said...


Her Royal Orangeness -- Thank you! =) I hope you get the chance to try halo-halo someday, because they are sweet, refreshing and fun.

Shaz -- LOL!!! I know what you mean, too. =P And thin has to be a great feeling rather than a great taste in order to compete, doesn't it? In fact, I'm sure we all agree that it tastes awful!

Lesa said...

Oh drat-- I forgot all about signing up for this challenge.

As a foodie, I'd love to read this book. And I love the excerpt-- Nenita is a girl after my own heart.

Enbrethiliel said...


There is something truly happy about deep fried treats, isn't there? =P These might not taste as good as thin feels, either, but who cares??? ;-)

You're back on the list of Top Commenters, Lesa, so you have a good chance of winning the giveaway and getting to pick this! But the best part is that even if you don't (Knocks on wood!), Banana Heart Summer is available internationally, so you can still put it on your wishlist! =)

Syrin said...

I recently saw that picture of halo-halo on Wikipedia and found myself greatly intrigued. Being an amateur foodie myself, this sounds like another book I might pick up even if I don't win the giveaway.

Enbrethiliel said...


And to think that I almost didn't feature it because it was another "international" one. ;-)

When you do get to read it, I hope you can find a good Bicol restaurant near you. The dishes might "taste differently on your tongue," but I think they'd be worth experiencing for anyone who likes this book, whether or not he or she ends up liking them. =)

Isabella said...

This book sounds really interesting. I like your blog. I am a new follower.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Isabella! This is a good read, so if you really do feel drawn to it, I hope you can easily find a copy. =)

Lesa said...

hahahahahh I'm from the south-- happy and deep fried anything are synomous!

Yay for me and my big mouth!! Wasn't even tough getting back in the top ten-- Shredded Cheddar is so interesting that it is easy to leave comments. Plus, you are fun to talk to.

Enbrethiliel said...


Awww, thanks, Lesa! =D

And I'm so pleased you share my love for all things deep fried! Now all I need to do is get my homemade pancake batter just right for those deep fried Oreos (which always taste good but look a mess), and my home shall truly smell and taste like happiness. ;-)

Lesa said...

I do know how to spell synonymous, btw. just in case you were wondering.

Deep fried oreos! you would fit right in in the South! You should come visit sometime in the fall for the state fair-- you'd be in deep-fried heaven. Are you a doughnut fan? Just about every country has a doughnut and I'd like to do a world tour.

Shanan, The Book Addict said...

My daughter saw the picture and said "yummy, mommy." Not sure if that was what you were going for, but I thought it was a good review for a 2-year-old.

I just found your blog through BookBlogs and I love it. :)

Enbrethiliel said...


It's a great comment, Shanan! And given that one of Bobis's messages is that food can speak for itself (even a picture or "word picture" of food), then it probably is what I was going for. =)

Thanks for following!

Monica Francine Jose said...

hi can someone lend me the book? or send me the file monixjose@yahoo.com really need it for school

Enbrethiliel said...


Good luck finding a copy, Monica! I don't know if this combox is the best place to find a lender, though.

I got my copy at National Book Store, which, the last time I checked, had many others in stock. You could also try ordering it directly from Anvil Publishing. I don't think it will be that expensive, and it's a nice enough book to be a good investment. =)