The Un­fold­ing

Jee­han Qui­jano New Merid­ian Arts (DE­CEM­BER) Soft­cover $16 (214pp), 978-0-9994617-2-3

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews | Adult Fiction - ANITRA BUDD

Jee­han Qui­jano’s novel The Un­fold­ing con­cerns it­self with the roots of trauma: Where does lone­li­ness be­gin? How does guilt take up res­i­dence in a fam­ily? Can grief be traced through a life­time, or even mul­ti­ple life­times?

Ben­jamin, an oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist liv­ing in Los An­ge­les, has re­turned to his na­tive Philip­pines to mourn the death of his younger brother, Omar. At the same time, he’s await­ing news of whether or not his child­hood bene­fac­tor, Don Rafael, has sur­vived a ter­ri­ble storm.

These two deaths—one cer­tain, the other in ques­tion—set the un­fold­ing in mo­tion. It is a slow ex­ca­va­tion of sad­ness and long­ing handed down from fa­ther to son, beginning with Ben­jamin’s early mem­o­ries. They show that from an early age he dreamed of a life out­side of ru­ral San Jac­into, while Omar wished for deeper con­nec­tions—with his brother, with the nat­u­ral world, and with God. Their lonely wid­ower fa­ther, Pablo, longs for a fu­ture that he can’t pos­si­bly pro­vide for ei­ther son.

When the wealthy Don Rafael ex­tends an unimag­in­able of­fer to im­pov­er­ished Pablo, it’s not a ques­tion of whether Pablo will take him up on it, but of how quickly he’ll grab at the chance to bet­ter his chil­dren’s lives. The im­pact of his de­ci­sion has un­in­tended con­se­quences; even­tu­ally, Ben­jamin alone is left to sift through the re­mains.

Lay­ered de­tails build lush set­tings. San Jac­into be­comes a liv­ing, breath­ing place, with “a view of ver­dant plains or the fog cir­cling the hills … the fad­ing light of late af­ter­noons.” While the story’s pace is some­times leisurely, it feels ap­pro­pri­ate for the depths of mourn­ing that Ben­jamin plumbs. The Un­fold­ing is a mov­ing story of fam­ily and loss that lingers in the senses.

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