Book Review: C.P. Santi’s “Maybe This Time”

Traditional American publishing may from upon short story collections — unless you’re Neil Gaiman, of course — but it’s always had a place in Philippine literature. Gilda Cordero-Fernando had The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker, while Nick Joaquin had Prose and PoemsPop Stories for Groovy Kids, and Gotita de Dragon and Other Stories.

I definitely have no problems with it at all. As you all know, I’m even part of a collection of short stories entitled Kids These Days: Stories from the Luna East Arts Academy (which you can buy here and here!) so I didn’t think twice when I was asked to review C.P. Santi’s collection of romantic short stories entitled Maybe This Time: Stories of Love and Second Chances. 

MaybeThisTimeMaybe This Time: Stories of Love and Second Chances is a collection of short stories where love — for one reason or another — just didn’t work out the first time around. The characters all meet again in later points of their lives,  and hopefully end up making their relationships work this time.

The first story in the collection, “Sweeter by the Second”, tells the story of Tony and Rin, who meet each other in the town of Jimenez in Misamis Occidental after years of separation. After a bad case of food poisoning puts the two in close quarters once again, will they be able to rekindle the love that they shared several years back?

“Exorcising My Ex”, meanwhile, is about Geno and Viv, high school sweethearts who’ve drifted apart emotionally but have kept in touch because of their daughter, Pam. When Pam concocts a scheme that forces the pair to spend a day together, they get to find out if there’s a chance for them to rekindle the emotions they used to have for each other.

Finally, “Meant To Be”, is about Swiss Arne and Filipina Bea, whose separation is brought about as much by geography as the unspoken things between them. Brought together by the 1995 World Youth Day held here in the Philippines, the two maintain a friendship over the decades, sharing letters and emails as the technology progresses, but never really saying to each other what needs to be said. As Arne makes a return to the Philippines, will they finally be able to speak from their hearts?

Having read none of C.P. Santi’s work before, I honestly didn’t know what to expect once I started in on “Sweeter by the Second”. I was pleasantly surprised that the main characters were in their thirties, and even more so when C.P. kept them that way. It would have been easy to cheat and just tell the story of how they fell in love as young people and then occasionally move back to their current age, but all of the characters remain firmly in their thirties in the stories, with only occasional flashbacks to their younger years. It’s a great move, as most Filipino romance out now does tend to focus on younger people.

I loved the use of innuendo in “Exorcising the Ex” hilarious, and I found the reactions of Bea’s family at the end of “Meant To Be” funny and endearing. I also liked the uncertainty that all the characters felt at the possibility of a rekindled romance. Who wouldn’t after it didn’t work out in the first place, right?

I also found the strong sense of place in “Sweeter by the Second” a very strong draw, and definitely made it the standout among the three stories. I love how C.P. managed to draw such a clear picture of the town of Jimenez in my head with such a short story, and I’d be happy to read more stories exploring that town even further.

And that’s my one nitpick with Maybe This Time: Stories of Love and Second Chances: I kinda wish that all these stories were much longer than they were. Which I guess isn’t such a bad thing to complain about, right?

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About C. P. Santi:

C. P. Santi is a Filipina author based in Tokyo, Japan. She is a wife to an engineer / indie songwriter and a full-time mom to two energetic boys. She loves cooking and baking, and enjoys feeding people, gorging on chocolate, watching J-doramas, belting it out in the karaoke box, and running around the house playing tickle tag. She also loves dreaming up stories about the people she meets.

In another life, she is also an architect and academic.

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