Title: Patron Saints Of Nothing
Author: Randy Ribay
Publication Date: June 27th 2019
Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟
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.
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review!
Patron Saints Of Nothing is a powerful coming-of-age story that gives readers an insight into the political landscape of the Philippines and the devastating impact of President Duterte’s war on drugs. Told from the perspective of Jay Reguero, a Filipino-American teenager who learns of his cousin’s death at the beginning of the novel, the narrative slowly unravels the hidden truth behind Jun’s murder and echoes the struggles many of us face when it comes to our immigrant identities.
Although he was born in the Philippines, Jay feels largely detached to that part of his identity as a teenager living in the United States, which seems to me a universal experience that is shared by most, if not all, first and second generation immigrant kids. Jay’s only real connection to his homeland is his cousin Jun, who is kept alive in the novel through excerpts of the letters he sent to Jay prior to his death. When Jay arrives in the Philippines to uncover the truth behind Jun’s murder, he becomes fully immersed in the culture of his home country. But even then, he feels largely out of place because of his lighter skin tone and his inability to speak Tagalog.
In fact, so many of Jay’s life experiences really mirrored my own. Outside of the murder mystery, this is an extremely relatable story about the struggles of being a teenager and not really knowing where you’re heading after high school. Family is also central to the novel and I really loved the author’s depiction of how messy they can often be in the way we are introduced to various members of Jay’s extended family and get to see how different his relationship is with each of them. I also loved that we got a double-sided stance on the drug war and how the opinions of those who were living with the consequences were made to matter more than Jay’s, an outsider with the privilege of never having to experience it first-hand.
Overall, this is a beautiful story about grief, guilt, faith and family which portrays the struggles that many of us collectively share because of our dual-identities. At times, it’s a quiet novel that highlights how silence is often better than empty small talk. But, for the most part, it’s an inspiring story about learning to see the good in situations, and in people, despite knowing all the bad.