Arlene J. Chai

"The Last Time I Saw Mother"

(Reviewed by Judi Clark JUL 7, 1998)

"This is the story of how I found those answers. I found them in the stories of three women. Do not judge them harshly for they are a part of me. And maybe you will see a part of you in them. After all, do we not all belong in each other's stories?"

The Last Time I Saw Mother

Caridad is summoned home to Manila by her mother who has decided that it is time for Caridad to learn who she is. Her life is told from the point of view of her mother, Aunt Emma and her eldest cousin Ligaya.  The essence of the story is that Caridad learns that the woman who she believes is her aunt is actually her mother. Her mother, Emma, gave baby Caridad to her sister, Thelma, to secretly raise as her own daughter. (Confused?) To understand why and how she could give up her child, the story brings us through the Japanese occupation of the Philippines and the destructive American liberation. 

Chai has written a fascinating story with many surprises. The underlying plot about the woman and their secrets is interesting in and of itself, but illuminating the Philippine history and the different cultures that reside in that far away nation makes this a memorable and rich read. I highly recommend it.

  • Amazon readers' rating: from 11 reviews


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About the Author:

Arlene J. Chai was born and raised in the Philippines. In 1982, she left the country while in her early 20s due to the political upheaval in Manilla. Arlene works as an advertising copywriter for many years at George Patterson's advertising agency, where author Bryce Courtney became her mentor. She decided to take a year off to see if she could write a novel and succeeded. Her works are often compared to Isabel Allende for her ability to bring out the political history in the Philippines. Chai lives in the northern beaches area of Sydney, Australia and is now one of Australia's most popular writers.

Her novel On the Goddess Rock was the 1999 winner of the Louis Braille Adult Audio Book of the Year.

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