“The Virgin of Monte Ramon” by Mia Alvar – selection 34 of #DealMeIn2019

 

The Card: ♥A♥  Ace of Hearts.

The Suit: For #DealMeIn2019, ♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥ is my Suit for “Stories by favorite authors.”

The Author:  Mia Alvar – Alvar is a new favorite of mine. A Filipino-American author who’s also lived in Bahrain. I tore through her story collection “In the Country” which contained several first-rate stories

The Selection: “The Virgin of Monte Ramon” A sometimes heartbreaking story of friendship between two social outcasts. Beautiful writing made me put this on my DMI list as one of my few re-reads this year. I own it as an e-book copy of “In the Country.”

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list of stories I’ll be reading in 2019. At the bottom of that post will be the cards I’ve drawn and links to any posts I’ve written on the stories. Also, check the sidebar for links to other book bloggers who are participating in this year’s challenge.

The Virgin Of Monte Ramon

“Although I am dead, Daniel told my mother, I shall live on through my grandson. He told my mother to name me after him, her father, not after the boyfriend who would end up deserting her. Daniel Wilson would not reveal specifics, but said I would be different from other children and remind my mother every day of the family’s legacy of pride and courage. And so I arrived: with a telltale lightness to my skin, and the vague buds of feet and toes that never quite articulated themselves.”

Although this story is at times heartbreakingly sad, it can also be viewed as a paean to friendship, and how valuable friendship can truly be, especially to those who are outcasts yet somehow find each other. The story is told in first person by a disabled prep school student, Danny. He has been told all his life that his physical disability was a kind of mystical legacy from a grandfather who was a hero in World War II:

“As a soldier he helped evacuate the wooden statue of the Virgin of Monte Ramon – the gilt, gem-encrusted patroness of our town – from her church into the nearby mountains. This was to keep her safe from wartime desecration, yet strangely it was those carrying her who felt protected as they ventured deep into the forests and mountain trails.”

When Danny meets his soon to be friend, “Annelise,” it’s an encounter that readers especially can appreciate:

“…and I saw Annelise for the first time. Though a schoolgirl in uniform herself, she was unlike the others. She did not blush or chat with her classmates, or glance at us from the corners of her eyes every so often. Instead, she was reading a book.”

Annelise has physical problems of her own that I won’t go into, but both she and Danny are mercilessly teased by schoolmates who could be “violently, unimaginatively cruel.” While Danny is relatively well-off, Annelise lives in “the ravine” the poorest section of town. The story’s climax, or at least one moment of epiphany, occurs in the ravine during a heavy rainstorm at the onset of the monsoon season.

“I noticed as the children played that they were trying not to slip and fall. The care they took had slowed their movements into a kind of dance. I turned to Annelise, who said, ‘The rain has crippled everyone,’ and laughed. I laughed too.”

This was one of many great stories in the book, which I heartily recommend (a rare 5-star rating from me on goodreads) You can find out more about it at amazon

What about YOU? What short stories have “struck your fancy” lately? Tell me about them.

♫♫ Personal Notes: The name of Danny’s friend, “Annelise” reminds me of one of my all-time favorite short story characters, “Annieanlouise” from one of my all-time favorite stories, Rudyard Kipling’s “The Brushwood Boy.” I blogged about it almost eight years ago. You can find that post here.

(below from google images – a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary from the Philippines)

Statue of General MacArthur’s famous “return” at Leyte Gulf. The first person narrator’s prep school in this story is called “General Douglas MacArthur Preparatory” 🙂

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