Andi is short. And she has lots of wishes. She wishes she could play on the school basketball team, she wishes for her own bedroom, but most of all she wishes that her long lost half brother, Bernardo, could come and live in London, where he belongs. Then Andi’s biggest wish comes true and she’s minutes away from becoming someone’s little sister. As she waits anxiously for Bernardo to arrive from the Philippines, she hopes he’ll turn out to be tall and just as mad as she is about basketball. When he finally arrives, he’s tall all right. But he’s not just tall …he’s a GIANT. In a novel packed with humour and quirkiness, Gourlay explores a touching sibling relationship and the clash of two very different cultures.
My brother doesn’t know this, but I consider him to be one of my best friends. He’s four years older than me, and like every other sibling pair, we used to have our share of screaming matches when we were kids. We only started having serious conversations as we grew up, thanks to the long rides from school to our house during college, when he’d pick me up. My relationship with him gave me a soft spot for stories about brothers and sisters, so it was no surprise that I couldn’t wait to read the recently released Tall Story by Candy Gourlay.
Tall Story chronicles the tale of half-siblings Bernardo and Andi, from the day they meet for the first time. Bernardo grew up in the Philippines under the care of his aunt and uncle, after his mom, a nurse, relocated to the United Kingdom to work. Bernardo grew up waiting for his papers to get approved by UK Immigration, so that he could live in London with his family. Andi is a small girl who loves basketball and barely knows her older brother, save for a few letters and phone calls. All that Andi knows is that her brother is tall, as her mom often stresses, and she wants him in London so they can play basketball together–but when he finally arrives, Andi is in for a shock. Bernardo is not just tall–he’s an eight-foot giant! As Bernardo and Andi get to know each other, Andi is pulled into Bernardo’s “magical” world and Bernardo learns how it feels to have a family.
If I could use one word to describe this novel, it would be “heartwarming.” I was thoroughly charmed by the entire book, and not just because it’s a brother-sister story. I knew I’d like Andi from her first line: Rush hour. So many armpits, so little deodorant. What Andi lacks in height, she makes up with ferocity and her can’t-miss basketball skills. Bernardo, on the other hand, is literally a gentle giant – he’s huge but not aggressive, sometimes rash and forgetful, but always bearing good intentions. Bernardo and Andi’s voices are distinct, and they play very well off each other, giving readers a chance to understand and sympathize with both points of view. I ached for the two main characters to be friends, and rejoiced when they grew closer as the book went on. Click here to read the rest of the review.
My copy: Philippine edition paperback, Php 275 from Powerbooks
Cover image: Original photo of actual book I own