Have you experienced buying a book for what you thought it is but it pleasantly turned into something else? A Bottle of Storm Clouds by Eliza Victoria is like that with me. I thought it is a short story collection about, given the cover, Philippine folklore flawlessly interspersed in a contemporary setting. It turns out to be what its title says—16 stories about individuals with bottled-up storms that change them in so many ways.
The storms come in different disturbing forms but oftentimes, the ending is the same: death. I have already read eight of these stories and so far, I have gotten the drift of Victoria’s admirable writing style—simple yet powerful words, short yet intense sentences, suspenseful flashbacks, and lots of dramatic dialogue. Each story evokes similar yet different emotions—do you understand? All stories I have encountered so far are sad ones subtly, others directly, covering a multitude of personal issues—abandonment, death of a loved one, fear of being left, fear of the future, and inability to move one. But the degree of sadness of the story can only be determined by how relevant it is in the life of the reader.
In my case, my heart was very heavy—still is—when I finished reading Earthset, the eighth story I have read (and mostly accounts for the reason that I could not move on to the ninth story yet). Eric goes through the daily motions of going to his office and back. At first, I thought, “Here is one bored corporate slave.” But the story immediately builds up, explaining his absent-minded routine. In a flashback, the reader is transported to the striking moment before his wife dies in a mall bombing. Her sudden death leaves him a broken-hearted man who, from my point, badly needs a hug and a person to talk to. But he cuts off all social connections, even when offered, and eyes a bottle of brandy and a helpless hopeless future. The story ends there, giving the readers free wheel to think what they want to happen to Eric. Following logic, though, without emotional support, I don’t Eric would have lasted long.
After I finished this story, I immediately called the boyfriend and went teary-eyed over the phone when I recalled the story to him. He told me not to believe it because the story is fiction. I argued with him that no, the story is very possible because there was a mall bombing in Manila before and someone out there could be suffering in the same way that Eric is suffering. And he insisted to me not to believe everything I read. Then I spat back that of course I do not believe everything I read, but Eric’s story reminded me of how he nearly died because of me during a robbery incident two years ago, then I would have suffered like Eric. The boyfriend went silent on the line. That somehow made me smile a little, for personal reasons. We hugged each other for a long time when we met the following day.
And that, my friend, is one of the reasons I enjoy short stories (and Earthset in particular). They are distinctive excerpts of different episodes of our lives, including those we think are too dramatic or too boring, taken from different, if not fresh, perspectives.
And, oh, A Bottle of Storm Clouds is highly recommended.
- Nancy -
P.S. I will feature more of Victoria’s short stories from her collection “A Bottle of Storm Clouds” on Simple Clockwork in the future. I am thinking of her short story titled “An Abduction by Mermaids” for the next post about the book. Victoria is an award-winning Filipino writer. A Bottle of Storm Clouds is her first short story collection published just this year. I bought my copy from National Bookstore.