by Lausanne Barlaan
Natural Analogies is a collection of personal essays by Lora Noreen Domingo. As hinted in the book’s title, the writer narrates her insights and observations through analogies between her subjects and animals.
“Definitions” takes readers on a fly-on-the-wall account with the writer, as she observes how a community that worked on unspoken rules can be helpless witnesses to the unraveling of a perceived alpha dog.
“Tiny Takeaways” is an account of the writer’s visit to the pediatrician following a bout of asthma, and is a rumination on how even the most selfless professions can be clouded by wrong impressions and societal status.
“Lessons on Preservation” is about the writer’s landlord, Tito Nick, and narrates his journey from a hardworking OFW to a loving father bent on preserving his legacy – his well-scrubbed house.
“Rituals for the Living” is about the post-funeral motions observed by the usual Filipino family, as experienced by the writer following her own grandmother’s funeral.
“A Sweet Misunderstanding” recounts her encounter with a misbehaving student and the writer’s examination on how upbringing plays a big role in shaping one’s perceived capabilities and limits.
“Crawlers” follows the writer as she reluctantly goes on a quest to track the neighborhood train tracks with her friends. Along the way, she encounters different “spiders” as personified by gambling children and nouveau-rich families.
“Lion Dad” profiles the writer’s dad and how even the strongest fighters get worn out after years of battle.
Lastly, “Anesthetic Faith” relates how the writer’s faith is shaken up with the help of lizards literally falling into her lap.
WHAT I LIKED
Lora Noreen Domingo may still be a teenager, but she writes with sophistication not usually seen in other 16-year-olds’ hormone-driven writings.
Placing “Definitions” at the beginning of the book was a wise decision, as it was one of the best in the anthology. In this essay, Domingo laid down the groundwork for the analogy skillfully so that the excitement builds up as the essay progresses.
“Tiny Takeaways” is also one of the stronger pieces in the book, as Domingo tries her hand in social commentary as weaved through her firsthand experience. While the attempt to be socially-relevant barely scratched the surface of the injustice iceberg, “Tiny Takeaways” is still a laudable effort with resonating lines like “A hit or a miss, money and predictions already exchanged hands.”
“Rituals for the Living” is probably the most poignant piece in the collection. It’s one of the longer essays, but one will barely notice the amount of pages with the way Domingo shifts from the present to the past, injecting heartbreaking lessons learned from things that were taken for granted.
Another highlight of the book are the complementary illustrations by Maria Julia Elisha Tan and Roberta Marie Santos.
“Lessons on Preservation” showed a lot of promise with its interesting subject (Tito Nick), but the writer’s analogy seemed somewhat forced compared to the other pieces.
Reading “A Sweet Misunderstanding” starts off sweet but turns slightly confusing as Domingo switches from one account to another, featuring different characters to strengthen her point but ultimately ends up a little convoluted.
The writer’s dad is mentioned in most of the essays in the book, and it is obvious that the writer holds her father in such high regard that one glance at the title “Lion Dad” drums up expectations. Presented in the latter part of the book, “Lion Dad” is presumed to be one of the more memorable pieces but failed to be one because it was anchored to an incident that pales in comparison to previous essays.
“Anesthetic Faith” is also a promising piece with its controversial subject (religion) and unexpected analogy (lizards), but ultimately missed the mark. Though there was effort to incite critical thinking throughout the essay, the writer’s reasoning read like a prolonged rant of a disgruntled believer.
The book also showed some typographical and grammatical errors, which can hopefully be fixed upon reprinting.
Natural Analogies by Lora Noreen Domingo is a welcome change from the fiction books that dominate bookstores, and can be a poster child of sorts for the new breed of creative nonfiction writers in the country. The essays are enjoyable, and the writer gives her best effort to entertain and leave a lasting impression through analogies between people and animals. ☁
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