Reading the work of a journalist, a copywriter, and a lawyer sure has its own peculiar effect.

Andrea Pasion-Flores’ For Love and Kisses summons the image of a neighborhood of dollhouses each inhabited by porcelain dolls. The book, which one could prejudice as just another collection of slice-of-life fiction is actually a very surprising compilation at that. It is a village, where each story is a house, filled of lifetimes battered with lies, contempt, disbelief, erroneous judgment, blind obedience, and wrongful hope.

The porcelain village

Made up of seven different stories of non-complementary plots, For Love and Kisses explores the lives of seven women- the first three, of children, each with its familial flaws and social instability, the subsequent three, of single and married women all in possession of relationships either only daydreamed, kept, and deteriorating respectively, and the last one, a flash fiction of escapism and societal rebellion combined.

Pasion-Flores’ characters are households of exquisite beauty with relative fragility: haunted by memories of the past and burdened by wrongdoings done before their very subsistence. The protagonist in “For Love and Kisses” grew up in a family with only a mentally-ill mother and a yet-to-be married sister. Her story brought about the woes and alternative solutions to a scenario with such a complex filial set-up wherein a child has to be a point of rationality amid a pretentious chaos going around, which despite the "wealth factor" of her grandmother that in a typical Filipino plot ends up solving almost anything to a happy ending, remained directionless until propelled by her young yet persevering will. This thematic landscape went on with the stories “Vanessa Calling” and “Buttercups,” with girls whose decision-making skills at their younger years both had great implications and consequences on their future peace of minds. Nursing from unrequited affection combined with doses of obsession confused with love, “Skin Art” opened the portals to a heart full of sorrow because of the entry of another woman for her dream man. It was followed by a trail to a cliff of emotions with “Love in Mini Stops” and its play on modern-day relationship systems of infidelity and offspring obligations, a representational treatise on marital situations nowadays. The last two stories, “The Hungry Ghost” and “How to Drink Whisky, if You’re A Girl,” are accounts dogged by refusals to accept what is at hand intertwined with notions of resolution: the first, a story of a woman who lost a child and its effect on her married life, the next, a quick narration of how firm a woman would decide on her own through the metaphor of a night in a club.

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Facing the challenge of digital books

Readers are taken on a tour of that part of their souls they most likely prefer not to explore. In For Love and Kisses, it's the people who victimize pain, manipulating it deliberately and subtly for the affirmation of their own set of convictions and selfish motives.

Beautiful fragility written

For Love and Kisses provides an artful fusion of reality and fantasy, raising the question as to who mirrors who. It leaves the reader asking whether the writer wrote what she saw or we see at last the reality we refused to look at with her forward rendition.

It contains pages of inconvenient truths leading one to confuse fiction with creative nonfiction; hers are wonderful dolls marked by frailness the readers could easily identify with. They promise no utopia as a romantic novelist would have done and no appalling severity as a pessimist would have–just the right dose of unwanted reality, yet inevitable and will be tolerable as to their truthfulness in due time.

She provided us toys that are fragile yet with life and dangerous. Not that these “toys” are unafraid of being shattered. But they are hazardous since they know how to use their delicate nature to outdo their beauty, a trait more treacherous than safe.

Whether we are the victim, the victimizer, or the indifferent, the author brings us to face a startling reality beautiful not because it was well done but because it was served raw; sophisticated not because of convoluted structuring and technical handling, but because of its illumination of a similarly sophisticated humanity.

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Looking back at the tricentennary

Andrea Pasion-Flores obtained a degree in Journalism, Law, and an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of the Philippines-Diliman.She served as executive director of the National Book Development Board from January 2007 untilMay 2013. For Love and Kisses was published by the UST Publishing House and was among the titles launched last October at the Philippine Literary Festival. Alpine Christopher P. Moldez

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