Like a treasure box filled with memories, Joy: A Novel feels familiar. Set in the time when ladies lit up Marlboro Longhorns in Toyota Crowns, bought fabric from Manila Castle to recreate a midi dress from Vogue Patterns, and inhaled Joy by Jean Patou, “the costliest perfume in the world”, on the necks of important women, the debut novel by Angelo R. Lacuesta follows Lucas, from boyhood to adulthood, as he ambles through the decades, navigating the minutiae of living in Manila with his mother Lita, his father Aris, childhood sweetheart Dedes and all the colourful people in their extended orbit.
The story, published by Penguin Books, is propelled when a grown-up Lucas receives a series of unexpected emails from his father, a self-described renaissance man (audio producer/ musician/ broker/ insurance salesman/ fast food mascot) who disappeared from his life 27 years earlier. Gathering the strings of what happened before and after, all of which are packaged by Lacuesta as slice-of-life narratives, like the sticky memories you tell again and again on idle afternoons, is what makes Joy compelling.
From these heap of remembrances—a teen-dream birthday at the InterContinental Manila, pomelo rinds on a coffee table in Davao, the English theme song of a Japanese super robot cartoon, blurry late-night Skype calls with an old friend in New York—Lucas emerges. Joy narrates life as a series of events whose sum, whether beautiful or miserable, frustrating or utterly joyful, is up to you.