A powerful coming-of-age story about grief, guilt, and the risks a Filipino-American teenager takes to uncover the truth about his cousin’s murder.
Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.
Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth — and the part he played in it.
As gripping as it is lyrical, Patron Saints of Nothing is a page-turning portrayal of the struggle to reconcile faith, family, and immigrant identity.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to NetGalley!
It’ll be very easy for me to just say ‘Please go read this book. It’s important and you can learn so many things from it’ and leave it at that. But I won’t. I’ve rated many books highly in the past and loved them, but none have struck a chord as personal and close to my heart as Patron Saints of Nothing. This book left me enraged and in tears on several levels- from the characters, to the plot, to the very real problems at the heart of the society shown in this book, the very same society and culture that I live in.
This is a book all Filipinos, whether in the Philippines or overseas should read. It’s gripping and painful and sometimes hard to read, but very powerful all the same. As someone who wants to become a human rights lawyer, this book angered me but also made me even more motivated. Ribay portrayed the injustices in this country accurately and his characters made me realize that everyone can make a difference, no matter how small. For that, I’d like to thank the author for shining a light on our country’s problems.
The book is narrated through Jay, a biracial Filipino-American who came to the country in order to find the truth about what happened to his cousin, Jun. What he finds takes some unexpected turns and leads him to question his own biases and what he knew about his cousin.
Patron Saints of Nothing portrayed Filipino culture very well and showed both the good and the bad. Jay’s family is very divided on the drug war, in the same way that many Filipino families are, and they also showcase different personalities and quirks that you can see in many Filipinos- the famed hospitality, kindness, and perseverance, but also the narrow-mindedness, bigotry, and blind nationalism are present in many of the characters you can see here. Seeing all these different personalities through Jay’s eyes was refreshing.
The humanization of the drug war was what sealed this book’s place in my heart. At the beginning of the novel, Jay thinks that 17-year old boys don’t just die. In this country, there have been multiple news about the minors that get caught up in the drug war. Often, they were described in terms that may be meant to reassure but only leaves a bitter and disgusting taste in the mouth- collateral damage. As if people were numbers, as if they died for some greater good (they did not). That’s if they were lucky. If not, some would try to justify their killings by saying that they were drug dealers, as if that makes it right.
In this book, Jay assumes that Jun didn’t deserve to die because he was an innocent boy. He was proven wrong. He didn’t deserve to die because he was human and his life mattered. Because he was caught up in circumstances that were beyond his control, circumstances that were the root cause of the problem that the government is “trying” to solve. In the end, it always comes down to the poverty that continues to haunt this nation and prevent it from truly growing. Poverty that keeps people in a terrible cycle that continues through generations and demonizes and dehumanizes them.
Patron Saints of Nothing showed us the human side of a war on the poor.
Jay’s determination to find the truth and seek justice truly struck a chord in me, as well as Grace’s love and respect for her Kuya Jun. I loved how she fights in her own way and continues his work, honoring his memory. The quiet resilience and strength of Grace’s character was very inspiring and she really embodies the kind of spirit that we Filipinos are known for. I’m glad Jay wasn’t shown to be a savior-type character and any notions of that were shut down. No one person can solve societal problems, but everyone can do anything that helps.
Tito Maning was a complex character. Yes, I do dislike his character very much and I hated how he treated his son, but he wasn’t really a black or white sort of character. He had shades of gray too, and we do see that in some way, he did care for his son. Maybe in the end he was blinded by loyalty to Duterte and maybe the desire for power, but he was an interesting character. I would say however that his brash attitude, narrow-mindedness, and arrogant blind nationalism is something we could see in so many people today. Most of us probably have a Tito Maning in our lives.
Overall, Patron Saints of Nothing was a raw, powerful, and gritty novel that everyone should read. It humanizes those involved in the drug war, and really inspired me to fight for what is right and to continue on the path of becoming a human rights lawyer. I can recommend this to everyone. Please, read this book.