WOMEN and the importance of relationships characterize the pages of Katrina Tuvera’s first ever collection of short stories, Testament and Other Stories (Anvil Publishing, 2002).

The stories manage to stand on their own even as Tuvera relates the different versions of women’s sadness and loneliness. The stories cater to a wide range of generations including Tuvera’s.

“The Flight” is about Luisa reminiscing her memories as a nine-year-old who witnessed the relationship of her gentle, kindhearted Uncle Tony to another man. Luisa remembers her uncle speaking to his lover, Nestor, with “a softness in his voice when he pointed out the wind’s course, and he reminded me of Mother when he chuckled, head tilted to one side.” The innocent worship she had for her uncle never wavered until she grew old enough to understand that what she had witnessed was never really accepted in society.

From the memories of a young girl, the book’s pages slip into the shoes of a 29-year-old insomniac in “Testament”. The woman’s sleeping problem, developed when she was still a child, and was fueled by her frustrations about not having a child of her own and being unable to accept her father’s death. Then there’s her husband who sleeps so deeply by her side while neighbors sing their sorrows away to a karaoke. The only relief in her battle with insomnia and depression is her visits to Tita Gilda, who patiently and gently teaches her to say goodbye and let go.

Meanwhile, Rachel Miranda, a young wife and a career woman, finds herself torn in the turmoil crackling between her preoccupied husband Eric and her lesbian sister-in-law Claire in “Mediator.” Eric, who lines up other priorities ahead of his own marriage, makes his wife deal with his sister. Like Luisa in “The Flight”, Rachel watches the love radiating between Claire and her lover. But Rachel also realizes that love is missing in her relationship with Eric, who would rather discuss police riots with her at dinnertime.

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Meanwhile, “Marion” and “A Passing Life” deal with displacement. In “Marion”, a young Filipina struggles all by herself as a working student in California, and temporarily finds refuge in the home of Marion, a widow in her early seventies who is confined to her wheelchair, and an outcast herself. “A Passing Life”, whose narrator lives most of her adult life in California, tells the readers how her grandmother doted on her as a child until she found herself an absolute stranger in America, “a land of TV dinners and crowded laundromats, failed job interviews and fragile relationships.”

Readers will find Testament an easy read, as it does away with literary jargon, engages the imagination and employs a simple and understandable language in the stories.

Tuvera’s narration is simple yet engaging, as she does not resort to complex metaphors but instead tells the details connected to the main idea of the stories little by little. Still, simple poetic phrases are injected in the stories to give them a more colorful illustration of the humanity of the characters, who know pain by the feel of simple things, such as a metal stuck between the bones of a broken hip, a bicycle riding out at dusk, and a slip of paper bearing a business memo of a preoccupied husband.

In Testament, Tuvera shows us a picturesque view of how women handle dysfunctional marriages and the departure of loved ones—the two dominant themes in this collection. The stories may not have happy endings that most of us expect but they present to us life’s complexities that many times we refuse to face undauntedly. Liberty L. Trinidad

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