In The Typhoon's Eye

A Story of Childhood and Leaving Home

Non-Fiction - Memoir
300 Pages
Reviewed on 04/22/2021
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Author Biography

Bles Chavez-Bernstein was born in the Philippines and migrated to the U.S. after her parents insisted that she become a nurse so she could work abroad and help send her younger siblings to college. Although unable to keep on writing lyrics and sonnets as she did as a young girl, she managed to keep her desire lit despite working full time as a nurse and raising three children. Three decades later, she has rediscovered her path and published Without Rhyme, her first collection of poetry. In The Typhoon's Eye is her first non-fiction.
Bles has received years of training in classical singing at the Performer’s Music Institute in Miami, Florida. In 2002, the New World School of the Arts in Miami awarded Bles a scholarship in music, majoring in vocal performance. In the last eighteen years, proceeds from her performances have supported advocacies for women and children worldwide.
Bles has also devoted many years in the art and vocation of nursing, working as a registered nurse in the U.S. She has extensive experience as both a bedside clinician and director of nursing, in two clinical specialties: mental health and addictions nursing.
Currently she is working on her second collection of poetry, The Sensuous Healer.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Grace Masso for Readers' Favorite

In The Typhoon's Eye: A Story of Childhood and Leaving Home by Bles Chavez-Bernstein is a childhood memoir that covers the author’s growing years in the Philippines through her coming-of-age, to leaving her family in pursuit of a dream. The author introduces readers to a family that has survived through moving from place to place and that has stuck together in spite of the odds. Her father is an ambitious man who wants to have a house for his family and the mother is a loyal wife with strong family values, a woman who stays with her husband even when he is caught cheating with his cousin, Ela. Bles takes readers on a ride through her childhood, exploring the exciting experiences and the climate in her family, allowing compelling images of locales she lived in and the lifestyle of the people to come out strongly in the writing. It is a story of family and love, and one that captures the theme of separation in a poignant manner, with the author forced by circumstances to leave her fiancé and children to seek greener pastures, hoping to keep her promise of freedom for herself, financial assistance for her family, and fidelity to Andy.

In The Typhoon's Eye is a unique memoir that those who have lived in the Philippines will adore. Bles Chavez-Bernstein has a unique voice and it is compelling. The descriptive nature of the writing pulled me in and some passages had me laughing, especially the way the author captures scenes from her childhood. One of the things I loved about this book is that it captures a reality that kids growing up in rural areas experience, such as feeling a kinship with nature and the woods. Her conversation with her mother about who owns the hills and the mountains is very revealing of the mind of a child. The family life is brilliantly written and the reader gets a clear idea of family values and what is most important for each member of this family. Locales where the protagonist has lived — from San Jose to the barrio of Guinaban, to Ocampo, and Sandig, carefully nestled in Mt Isarog, a dormant volcano — are well written. The narrative voice is lively and gripping, the prose crisp and the characters fully developed. In The Typhoon's Eye: A Story of Childhood and Leaving Home is engaging, emotionally rich, and depicts provincial life in the Philippines with compelling and colorful images. A wonderful memoir that reads like fiction.

Romuald Dzemo

In The Typhoon's Eye: A Story of Childhood and Leaving Home by Bles Chavez-Bernstein is a memoir of a young woman from the Philippines, who at five was already conscious of how she looked. It is a story that explores family dynamics, an unalloyed love of a mother, and pursuing dreams. The author writes about a family that nurtured her and shares episodes that are both entertaining and revealing of Filipino cultural values. Her father, Salvador, is obsessed with making money and building a house and her mother strives to please her husband and nurture her family. Follow this author as the family moved from one place to another, growing in numbers, and as she falls in love and has to leave everything behind, including her fiancé and children for an adventure in the US.

This is a heartwarming memoir that explores themes of love, family, growing up, and dreams. Bles Chavez-Bernstein captures the social realities of provincial life in the Philippines and allows readers to feel the pulse of community life, punctuated by religious celebrations and connecting with the extended family. Social realities like the really poor people not being able to afford meat except during fiestas, which happens once a year on the birthday of the town’s patron saint, are brilliantly captured. I loved the way the author writes about perception, her unique way of looking at the tensions between her parents. Her young life is blissfully presented in the narrative as well as her relationship with her siblings. Readers will also appreciate the way the author writes about the hardships and struggles of growing up in a poor family, her inability to make choices for herself and the pain of leaving everything before to pursue goals of making life better for herself and her family.

The narrative is never lacking in humor and I enjoyed the terrific descriptions, especially when the author describes her father’s adoptive mother as old-fashioned in physical appearance and in her sense of values. This is a mesmerizing tale told in an atmospheric style, a story that captures the author’s nostalgia for a place. In The Typhoon's Eye: A Story of Childhood and Leaving Home is a wonderful story with fascinating characters. A powerful portrait of what it is like to grow up in a province in the Philippines. A must-read for anyone who wants to know about the social realities of the country and its traditional values.

Mamta Madhavan

In The Typhoon's Eye: A Story of Childhood and Leaving Home by Bles Chavez-Bernstein is a poignant memoir that chronicles the journey of an immigrant who shares her childhood memories unapologetically. Her struggles while growing up, leaving home, moving to a foreign land in search of a better life, sacrifices, and how she kept her spirit intact through all the chaos will encourage readers to tackle their problems and advance in their lives. The memoir is heartbreaking, yet captures the spirit of a woman and her positivity while making her life happen. Her rising above obstacles will encourage readers to deal with their challenges and adversities in life in a positive way without giving up on life, even though the odds were against her most of the time.

In The Typhoon's Eye is honest, simple, straightforward, and raw, and that brings forth the pain, joy, sorrow, love, and humanness in Bles Chavez-Bernstein's life and her character. Her story is powerful and is not only that of survival, but also of determination, strength, courage, perseverance, self-belief, and devotion. Reading Bles Chavez-Bernstein's story is a good way for readers to get motivated when it comes to dealing with difficult situations because of the manner in which the author has risen above her ups and downs. She shares a lot of pictures in the book, which makes her, family, and life palpable to readers. The author is very vocal when it comes to sharing her story and speaks about all aspects of her life in detail, pulling readers into her journey and what it took for her to reach the position she is in now.