Welcome to Cafe Carmelo

Table for Two by Marla MinianoTable for Two by Marla Miniano
Publisher: Summit Books
Number of pages: 144
My copy: paperback, bought from National Bookstore

A corner table at a cozy coffee shop witnesses many things:

A long-time couple about to break up after college graduation. A young teacher accepting a dare from her teenage brother to quit dating for two months. A wedding photographer trying to convince his best friend not to get married. A boy meeting up with the girl he never quite got over. And a girl sitting alone, reading romance novels, wondering if today is the day she will stop being lonely.

Do their lives intersect and intertwine — spiraling them through an obstacle course of love and loss and hope and heartbreak? And can they each find the happy ending they so desperately want?

* * *

I normally pick up chick lit books because there’s a bigger chance that I can relate to the characters and their plight. More often than not, I’d find myself sighing the same time as the character does, wishing for the same love as she does, and…that’s where the similarities ended, because the character finds love while I watch her and be happy for her.

Not that I’m bitter, of course. :P

Marla Miniano is back with a new book, this time telling the story of four people who happen to hang out in the same coffee shop, and sometimes even at the same table. Table for Two is a collection of five stories of people from all walks of life, choosing a coffee shop to witness the changes in their lives, and ultimately connecting them in one way or another.

A bit of a spoiler warning starts here, but there’s nothing major. Just be forewarned. :)

Table for Two starts out with Fresh, a story of the end of the relationship of a long-time couple when they realized that after graduation, they need to go their separate ways. Timeout is about Jill, a teacher, who follows her brother’s advice to stop dating for two months to stop herself from dating losers. All the Best is about best friends Carl and Blake, and Carl’s attempt at stopping Blake from marrying Vicky out of concern for his best friend but failing to recognize that he was in more need of relationship advice. This Closure is about Lucas who never really got over Bettina and their shared kiss. The last story, Table for Two brings us to a full circle with Mandy and her independence and her penchant for romance novels.

This book reminds me so much of Para Kay B by Ricky Lee, with all these stories of different people about love that connects them to each other somewhat. I liked Para Kay B but I liked this more because I saw a bit of myself at every story. True, I’ve never been in a relationship, and I’ve never broken up with anyone or been broken up with, but there’s a part of each of the character that resonated with me. I believe other readers will be able to identify with the characters somehow, too, and this makes Marla’s novel a good one for the older audience as compared to the Girl’s Guide series.

I think out of all stories, my favorite is the last, Table for Two. One thing notable thing about this book — particularly this story — is there were so many quotable quotes! For example:

“…falling in love and trying to make someone fall in love with you and working to stay in love and forcing yourself to fall out of love with someone who will never love you back is much, much more exhausting than being alone.” (p. 120)

“It’s the little things she needs someone for, like someone to hold her hand at the end of a long day, or someone to watch stupid comedies with, or someone to curl up with on the couch on a lazy Sunday morning as she reads the newspaper and eats her cereal. Which probably means she doesn’t ‘need’ someone in the strictest sense, although at the end of a long day, or while watching a stupid comedy, or on a lazy Sunday morning, having someone would be very much appreciated.” (p. 133)

The only thing I could have wished for in this book is stronger connections between the stories. I was very curious to see the connections of the story, almost making me want to skip all the way to the ending, and when I got to the end, I got just a teensy bit disappointed. But it’s still a very, very good read. Wonderful prose, good stories, and perfect reading companion on a rainy day with a mug of coffee or hot chocolate. It doesn’t have to be in a coffee shop between the Korean grocery and appliance store — an over-commercialized Starbucks would probably do. :P

Rating: [rating=4]

10 Thoughts on “Welcome to Cafe Carmelo

  1. Ooooh this seems interesting! I’ll probably pick it up when I see it somewhere. My favorite Summit book is The Breakup Diaries.

  2. Finally got my copy! And finished it.

    You’re right about the prose being beautiful. It was unexpected, actually, and I think it contributes to making the local version of the genre just a bit more sophisticated. *nods*

    However I’d give it one less star for not going further with any of the stories, if only because I think each of them could be made into a good-sized novella anyway. Sayang!

  3. Aina on July 25, 2010 at 3:44 pm said:

    I bought the book and it was so great! I loved Fresh. It’s my favorite. But the problem is that the book I bought was kind of “bitin”. It’s like the last page is NOT the last page. The last page I have is *quote* “He is consent writing, and admiring, and imagining–anything more than that” *unquote* that’s it. I’m positive this isn’t the last page of it. The story’s not even finished. I was just checking if the book you guys bought is like the one I did. If not, then I may as well exchange it for a new copy. Please reply so I know if all the books are like that or not. Either way, the book is still a pleasant thing to read and I can definitely relate in some of the stories.

    • Hi Aina! Hm, looks like your copy has a few missing pages. The last page should be an About the Author page. You should have it exchanged for a full copy. :)

  4. Aina on July 26, 2010 at 9:09 pm said:

    Thanks, Tina. I really appreciate it. I was really wondering why it was just like that. I was looking forward pa naman to Mandy’s ending. Haha. Thanks again. And I will get a new copy. :))

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