Dr Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo asked in class, “Why is there humor in a novel as tragic as this?”
Thinking out loud I said, “Otherwise it could have been a Russian novel.” A classmate laughed, my professor sneered.
Sky Over Dimas makes you feel good about how normal your family is–boring even.
Its first line, “The fact is: George Torrecarion went crazy,” is a sure hit to the chismosa in us: bakit nabaliw? sinong george? kawawa naman. And empathy for one of the main characters is born.
Set in Negros, yes in one of the well off haciendas there, the story develops from one shameful event to another.
Your father leaves your house because your mother tells him that your brother is her son to a former lover whom she loved dearest, probably more than she loved your father; your father flees to a dilapidated house in their hacienda with a servant girl; your mother’s sanity breaks down for the whole community to see as it has been for centuries, so she calls you while you’re trying to live a separate life in Manila, asking you to please ask your father to go home, but you don’t want to because you know your family has been Negros’s favorite gossip topic, what with your aunts and uncles and grandparents and a whole clan of strange personalities with a soft spot for non-traditional love (e.g. student-teacher) and murder, and oh, burning properties.
When Dr. Hidalgo invited the author to listen to my classmate’s review of his work (something the reviewer and the reviewed felt awkward to), we had the time of our life–actually we seem to be laughing for the entire period.
To our delight, Jun enumerated in his analysis people from real life, pop culture persons to be particular, who resemble Groyon’s characters (e.g. Marge=Margie Moran). He also had interesting explanations for imagery used in the novel such as Catholic allusions. Afterwards, we took a peek into the author’s writing process.
Vince Groyon shared that the writing of his first novel (which won Palanca grand prize winner) started long ago when he was still in high school researching about the province’s bloody history for some paper, which he developed later on in his thesis.
Towards the end of the novel, George narrates this historical bit and reacts to it not with a drop of pride.
After the analysis, Groyon said he would always be mistaken as a haciendero (well, that’s understandable from the looks of this La Salle professor and the way he carries himself), then he laughed–a comforting gesture to compromise his dark social critique in the form of fiction.