The Hour of Daydreams

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This is a quiet and atmospheric retelling of a Filipino folk tale, "The Star Maidens" and its roots show through. Like many of its kind, there is a blurring of fantastical and real that encourages you to soften and drift through the story. The dialogue is especially sparse - intentionally so - and in terms of plot, there isn't much movement. We learn at the very beginning that this is the story of a woman named Tala whose daughter grows up without her. The rest of the book is investigating her life up until that point, and adding in all rumors, however improbable, to get a better sense of the tale. 

I really loved the first half of this book. The slow pacing worked for me because the world and the writing were just so lush. I happen to love all folk tales and mythologies, so whenever I find something that takes its inspiration from cultural traditions I am frantic to pick it up. At its best, DAYDREAMS reminds me of books with similar ideas, like DEATHLESS or CIRCE. However, there came a point (and I have a feeling this is more of a me problem than not) where I couldn't hold on to the story anymore. I remembered having finished this, but for the life of me I couldn't actually remember the ending. There's something about the finale that didn't feel substantial, though perhaps, as the title suggests, that was all part of the intention.
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The Hour of Daydreams

by Renee Macalino Rutledge

This was a beautiful retelling of a folktale of love and deceit. Somewhere between the love story of a selkie-like woman, who sheds her wing instead of her coat, and a man entranced by her beauty enough to make her stay. It's about love and marriage and what happens when truth is withheld.

What I liked:

-The evocative language. Just utterly beautiful prose. 

-The storytelling, the way that we were told about how things were and how things had been. The kinds of flashbacks and flashforwards and multiple perspectives and repetition in storytelling and different kinds of insight. It's difficult to explain, but it reminded me a lot of the kind of scene-setting I've read in Latin American magical realism novels.

-This is really a story about love and family and self-identity and trust that can hold people together or split people apart. 

-Not to give too much away, but I absolutely love the sense of irony that we get from Tala and Manolo's relationship. He knows that he forced her to stay and that she's keeping that secret from him, and so he believes that he cannot really trust her for it. She doesn't know that he took her wings, but she loves him and wants to stay with him and form a family and was willing to give up her wings for him. And they could have had a chance to be happy together, but they didn't trust each other enough to make their own decisions, and instead decided to keep things hidden "for the best" when it wasn't for the best at all. But in my opinion, as soon as Manolo stole the wings and did not plan to give them back, their fates were sealed. And pride and perhaps even guilt and shame would not change that. 

-This could have easily been a short story. But it wasn't because it drew on different flashbacks to complicate a character's history and the such. Just like in real life, there are a lot of intertwining plots and subplots. This is definitely a novel deeply rooted in community, even though it follows the story of one intergenerational family. We learn about the neighbors and family friends and how the community has managed upheaval and turmoil as if the community itself were the real setting of the narrative.
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The creator meshes dream and tale into the account of Tala and Manolo's meeting and marriage. The written work has a melodious, children's story quality which on occasion is hypnotizing 
"He began walking along the lip of the water, where it saturated the sand with kisses"
and the writer has some creative analogies/comparisons.
"They talked rapidly and their conversation was like a dance; as one took the lead, the others were eager to follow. It was a meandering dance, circling from place to place..."
Be that as it may, at different circumstances, the dialect was shockingly burdensome 
"Cigarette in hand, he assessed the scene in front of him with some degree of calm." or "Your mother's anguish invoked you from sleep, and we combined our efforts to pacify your discomfort."
There are distinctly watched illustrative entries of regular daily existence (the market, the quayside) however I discovered a portion of the author's expanded representations bewildering, for example, practically the entire of Chapter 6. The supporting characters are well-drawn and the significance of nourishment and sharing collective dinners is affectionately portrayed. I appreciated the account of the primary characters yet found that, for me, the dream component confounded instead of improved the story.
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At a river near his home in the Philippine countryside, respected doctor Manolo Lualhati encounters the unthinkable—a young woman with wings. After several incredible visits, he coaxes her to stay behind—to quit flying to the stars with her sisters each night—so they can marry. Tala agrees, but soon finds herself grounded in a new life where she must negotiate Manolo’s parents’ well-intentioned scrutiny. As Tala tries to keep long-held family secrets from her new husband, Manolo begins questioning the gaps in her stories, and his suspicions push him even further from the truth. Weaving in the perspectives of Manolo’s parents, Tala’s siblings, and the all-seeing housekeeper, The Hour of Daydreams delves into contemporary issues of identity and trust in marriage, while exploring how myths can take root from the seeds of our most difficult truths. 

Unable to review - title archived
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I didn't love this. I really wanted to because I liked the idea behind it. But the language and pacing fell flat for me.
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Note, this review will post on my blog on 8/7/2017. It will also go live on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Goodreads at that time. I will try to update the links then. On 8/8/2017, a reflection post where I will talk about how this book impacted me will post on my blog, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

The Hour of Daydreams by Renee Macalino Rutledge - 4/ 5 stars

I wouldn’t call magical realism my genre, but I also wouldn’t say I dislike it. I’ve read a few books with magical realism and some have been good and some have been terrible. When the phrase, magical realism comes up, I hesitate and think, oh I probably won’t like that. When I read the description for The Hour of Daydreams I was intrigued, but hesitated because of the magical aspect of the book. I am so glad I decided to read this book.

I would not characterize this book as magical realism. I would characterize it as lyrical and a story about people who believe in alternate realities. This story did not feel like the magical realism was forced upon it, but rather that these characters live with a beautiful way of understanding the world. I loved how The Hour of Daydreams transported me to this world and showed me how rich it is. I loved feeling the characters grapple with reality versus what they wanted to believe and I felt I understood why these stories arise. For me, this type of story is simply another way of storytelling and I love it.

This is a story of Tala, a woman who none of the characters fully know as she is an outsider to the community. Her husband sees her as a fallen angel while others envision other possibilities as to where she is now. Ultimately, as the story unfolds, we learn that Tala is a woman with a complicated and painful past and the people who love her cope with this knowledge through myths and half truths. These are beautiful myths and half truths, which no one fully believes, but yet they hold power. 

The story is beautifully told and unfolds at a solid pace which kept me engaged throughout the book. The point of view changes, but in a seamless way. The ending provided enough resolution to leave me satisfied, but enough uncertainty to make this feel a bit like a fairy tale.

My biggest complaint is that I would have liked more. I wanted to know so much more about everyone, but especially Tala and Manolo. They were incredibly rich characters I wanted to know deep down to their souls. The amount I learned about the characters was satisfying, but I would have been even happier had this book been longer. 

Even if you think you do not like magical realism, I recommend this book for you as it is not magical reality so much as the stories we tell ourselves to get through what can often be a cruel life. It is a beautiful book and one fans of literary fiction will enjoy. I encourage everyone to give it a try as it’s likely not like any other book you’ve read before. For me, that was a beautiful gift.
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A beautifully written debut.  Perfect for those who love folklore woven into modern day life.
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This winding story keeps looping back on itself, as if the true story were some sort of craggy mountain, and the narrative kept backing up and going at it again from a different angle, getting a little farther this time, no, maybe backing off again, starting at a different point with a different person, with a little more magic, a little less, then climbing the peak again.  It moves forward and backward in time, with a fairy tale and with an ordinary tale, switches narrators, moves around.  Near the end, the child narrator's grandmother tells her that truth has many different colors, and it may be that she knows nothing at all just when she thinks she has gotten to the real story.  It's devoid of certainty, but it's enchanting, full of beauty and pain.  

I got a copy to review from Net Galley.
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I honestly am not quite sure what to make of this book. The Hour of Daydreams is based on a Filipino folktale - however, after a brief Google, I wasn't quite sure what folktale this exactly is. There are seven sisters, one of whom marries a countryside doctor. The sister has wings, which the doctor hides from her in an attempt to make her stay with him forever. (It reminded me a lot of the selkie myth, actually.) If any of you know, please leave a comment! I think half the fun of using a folktale as a basis for a story is seeing how the author has changed it, and whether it will indeed come to its (often depressing) conclusion. I didn't get that experience with this one. 

I absolutely adored the writing style - I'm not sure whether to quite classify it as magical realism, but it definitely has that dreamy sort of aspect. At one point, grandmothers can make the entire barrio take a nap (except for naughty children, of course!) and fish rain down from the sky. It really reminded me of When the Moon was Ours. I love that sort of lush prose, so that aspect of the book really spoke to me. This was especially because it was intermittently paired with the gritty reality of poverty and prostitution. I loved that juxtaposition. 

To be quite frank, this wasn't the book for me. I think that if I had been familiar with the folktale, and perhaps also Filipino culture, I would have understood it more. However, for those who are, I think that The Hour of Daydreams will be an extremely enjoyable read.
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This debut novel was an interesting experience, although I should have expected no less than such a feast of all the senses when it has been described as a reimagined Filipino folktale.
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During a time of grief Manolo Lualhati stumbles upon seven sisters bathing in the moonlit river. As he watches six of them don beautiful white wings and fly away while the seventh lingers in the waters. Struck by her beauty he hides her wings and they are soon married. But Manolo feels guilty and unworthy and these feelings are bound up with the fear that his beautiful wife will one day rediscover her wings and leave him bereft and so he becomes suspicious, following Tala in disguise and trying to penetrate her secrets. At the same time Tala worries that Manolo’s love is fleeting and possessive and sets out to test his trust by placing a locked box in their home, the key in the lock, and asking her husband to respect the secret within.
Rutledge’s lyrical tale builds on a long tradition of magical realism, dominated by striking voices such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende, blending folklore and fairy tales with stories of real lives in order to capture the culture of her world. The Hour of Daydreams explores that liminal space between waking and sleep where dreams bleed into reality and vice versa. So powerful is this effect that their daughter, who has never known her mother, is haunted by bullies who call her mother a witch, a monster, and she has no clear truth with which to parry their cruelty. The story of Manolo and Tala and the uncertainty over how they really met and who they really are interrogates the way that we use dreams and dream-like qualities to obscure darker aspects of life that we would rather not face. Is Tala an otherworldly creature, higher and purer than her husband or is there a darker, all-too-real explanation for their first encounter?
It also asks questions about the difference between reason and superstition and the difficulty we have in fully occupying either world. Manolo is a doctor, prides himself on his ability to find rational causes for illnesses without resorting to folk remedies or supernatural explanations but he also believes that his wife had wings. Despite his rationality Manolo remains haunted by these wings but is he really afraid that they are her means of escape or is he simply terrified that he cannot keep her and uncertain of her love? As Manolo becomes consumed by suspicion and fixates on the secret box Rutledge slowly unpicks the intricacies of the conflicting explanations, using multiple viewpoints to shed light on the ambiguous events.
It’s a beautifully told story and Ruteledge has an eye for a striking image and an ability to really evoke the feel and colour of her setting. There’s a wonderful sense of place, with a real depth of sights and sounds and the magical elements add a flavour of Filipino culture. Unfortunately I didn’t feel her characters as deeply, they were so firmly enmeshed in the uncertainty of their pasts and the space between truth and myth that they never fully emerged, limited to characters in a story being told to their daughter rather than people in their own right, lacking the nuance of real feeling. Even by the end they felt as insubstantial as Tala’s wings.
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The Hour of Daydreams by Renee Rutledge tells the story of Manolo and Tala who are newlyweds. The two are not your ordinary couple though. The story is actually narrated in a way that makes it seem a bit more like fantasy than reality. For instance; Tala uses to have wings. There are other elements of magical realism interwoven in the story throughout the chapters. This is a beautiful story about love, family and the complexity of marriage. 

The story is told as folklore or more like a fable. However, the author makes all events thought provoking and realistic. A husband hides his wife’s wings? That makes you wonder if perhaps it depicts reality. Does it simply mean that he was just controlling and hence wanted to limit his wife’s freedom? There is a story within the main story about a box that is used to test trustworthiness. This really made me think about different scenarios. For instance, would I resist the temptation to snoop if my husband brought home a red box which he then places in the open? Wouldn’t it be natural to just take a peek and see what’s inside? Will that make me untrustworthy?

The writing of this book was impeccable. I loved the imagery. It took me to the fantasy world and brought me back to reality. I got lost in the couple’s world. There were instances where it was both beautiful and sad. The character development made me connect with the MCs hence making my reading experience even better. I enjoyed reading this book and was totally enchanted by the writing hence my reason for recommending it.
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Unusual, beautiful and romantic! Based upon a Filipino folktale, Ms. Rutledge has created a wonderful, thought-provoking look at marriage, trust, and secrets. Almost dreamlike, definitely worth the read.
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4.5 Stars

In the tradition of Isabelle Allende and Laura Esquivel, Renee Rutledge gives us a lush tale of magical realism set in a Filipino world. Dealing with love and marriage, with secrets and lies, she weaves a tale of Tala and Manolo's love, a love that unravels after self-doubt, distrust and jealousy slowly infect the relationship. The truth of Tala's history, a fallen angel, a soaring soul, a saint or an oppressed victim, lies like Manolo's truth, buried in a box with a key he could use to open at any time. He simply decides to pretend the box isn't there, until its presence consumes him.

This is languid, lush prose that the reader can lose themselves in, and in which many readers may truly get lost. The bookends of Tala's daughter Malaya's search for the truths about her mother ground the story. Between those bookends, Tala's past and present cuts back and forth between the magical and the squalid, and occasionally they intersect. This is an interesting and moving story that would have been richer if we'd had enough of a grasp on Tala to build our own attachment to her and mirror Manolo's fears and loss. Tala is so ethereal and fey that it is hard to count on her remaining grounded in Lualhati for long. The revelation that she and Manolo were more similar perhaps than we believed was a striking development. Reareading prologue after the conclusion left me with many questions about the factual timeline and whose wings we are really talking about.

I wished the ARC/final novel had a Tagalog dictionary for the terms used in the story. It was distracting to have to stop to research duwendes and albularyos, etc. It frustrated me as a reader.
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This book is part fairy-tale, part daydream, part real life – or all three things at once.  The edges between the book’s various facets are blurred, and change from chapter to chapter, as does the narration – switching from first to third person and back again.  The story is about truth, secrets and trust.  How stories morph from actual events, through countless retellings, interpretations and wishful thinking to become new myths and accepted truths.  One man’s superstition is another person’s reality, a way of making sense of the world.  
On the surface, this is the tale of the love between the young doctor, Manolo, and the beautiful, mysterious Tala.  But the surface is constantly deceptive.  Each knows a different truth about their relationship and how their pasts became entwined.  As the reader, you are coaxed, enticed with beautiful language and imagery from one perspective to the next, through countless hours of daydreams studded with blasts of reality.
Don’t expect to truly understand what is happening, just wallow in the fabulous narrative(s) and the author’s exceptional writing skill.
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A wonderful lyrical story, "The Hour of Daydreams" balances on a tightrope between contemporary novel and magic realism. Set in the Philippines and exploring the family life of Manolo and Tala, it was unclear to me until the end whether or not Tala was a angel slash angel-like-monster from local folklore or a woman who had escaped prostitution. The themes of trust and truth in marriage, as well as identity and change thereof work for either scenario. I also enjoyed the setting, which Renee Rutledge described with broad exotic brushstrokes. I found the detailed exploration into each side characters backstory a bit too much at times and would have preferred a more condensed story telling, but somehow even that fit in with the overall style of the novel. Certainly recommendable for fans of fairy tales and magic realism!
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The Hour of Daydreams is a truly magical story told with so much fluid lyricism and intricate descriptions. 

Woven into the tale of love and betrayal and fairy tales are themes of identity, relationships and how assumptions and past experiences shape our belief and reaction to others people's actions. 

Told from multiple POVs, we see and feel like through Manolo, his parents, his daughter Malaya, their housekeeper. And as the story builds a fuller picture emerges from each character's limited viewpoints.
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“It’s like an infestation of the mind, these fairy tales, the way they’ve taken root in the bodies of our people. Are our lives so bland that we need this magic, this spice to fill up the holes? Are we ghosts ourselves without them? Or is it the land itself cannot sleep, packed with lost secrets and layers of bone by millions, scattered for centuries across seven thousand islands?”

The Hour of Daydreams is lyrical and fantastical while somehow weaving its way within Filipino culture. Early in the story we learn that Manolo Lualhati falls in love with a woman  Tala, who seems otherworldly. She will become his wife and leave behind her own sisters, family and learn to embrace the traditions of Manolo’s own. As a man of medicine, the reader understands how the people of his village cling to natural remedies and superstitions even when it comes to their health. There is plenty happening in the novel, blending magical realism with the heavy demands of reality, we wonder what is true? Is Tala really something special, or is their love story the same as all others? He first finds her bathing in the river with her sisters in a place that the superstitious believe has vampires and demons, hence they avoid it for the safety of their lives. Could it be that the bathing beauty has wings? For she speaks to the water, is beautiful and graceful beyond compare. When he gets what he wants, and she becomes his, he is left feeling that he has somehow transgressed, as if by gaining such perfection and love in his life, he is doomed. It isn’t long before he is obsessed with following his beautiful wife, he has to know what she does and why. Whom that has ever loved realizes how we murder the very thing we worship by searching for flaws or digging for secrets. Trust and honesty are vital in any relationship as is freedom, freedom to still remain whole as a person. As in any love story, the reader is raking through the muck to discover what is real and what is imagined. Is the wild folklore to be believed? Or is the magical meant to disguise the painful realities? All we know is the daughter from their union doesn’t know who or what her mother really was. From whispers of her peers that wait to see if she too will sprout horns or wings to the love filled memories of her family, she is in the dark and searching for the truth of her mother, long gone now. All she knows is that she feels her mother abandoned them. Her mother, she tells us, was just an ordinary woman that left a gaping absence. Is she right? Or do the villager’s superstitious beliefs hold true? You have to read.

The writing is beautiful and the fantastical elements that alter the ordinary painful love story make it more than just another story of loss. I was unfamiliar with the traditions and superstitions, and admit to loving any sort of myths other cultures create. All of our stories, in the end, are built on belief systems whether we embrace or deny them and say a lot about our culture. There remains a heaviness, because while their love is magical it almost seems poisoned by doubt and jealousies, like so many other love stories. We spend so much time wanting love only to create obstructions with our insecurities and disbelief. The story jumps around at times, which could be confusing for some, so find a space free of disruption while reading.

Lovely and sad. For anyone that enjoys magical realism and honest love stories about other cultures.

Publication Date: March 14, 2017

Forest Avenue Press
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