One would think suicide and a doctor’s crisis of confidence in herself to be heavy topics, perhaps too heavy for a romance novel. One would think that and indie #romanceclass author and medical doctor Celestine Trinidad will tell you otherwise, in her YA romance novel “Ghost of a Feeling.”
Trinidad’s writing style is fresh and delightful, and she has this knack for weaving heavy threads like death, self-doubt, nihilism and depression into a story and, by some alchemy, turning these dark threads to gold.
Her story revolves around Cris Villareal, a doctor who’d dreamed of becoming a physician but, at the opening of the book, had to deal with the death of a patient who was under her care, a child, no less.
This takes me back to the story my mother told me of her father, the barrio doctor, who would break to pieces with every patient he’d lost despite his exhaustive battles to save them. It isn’t easy to render the soul-shattering sense of failure a healer experiences when a patient under that healer’s care dies—yet Trinidad has done this very well, and I’m sure it is not just her healer’s training that offers her the viewpoint it takes to see this and share it.
She also has the innate compassion that doctors need to do their jobs, and the impeccable language skills necessary to make this experience real and put it across the written page as beautifully and as honestly as it can be rendered.
Well, Trinidad’s heroine meets a prankster whom she believes to be a ghost. Nathan Morales is the perfect foil to Cris’ straight and serious doctor: He’s the jokester who finds himself in a bind after he sets up an elaborate set of tricks to scare the people in their apartment building.
In the process, he winds up stopping Cris from jumping off the building and becoming her confidante, at least until his jig is up and he is revealed for the very mortal person he actually is.
Yes, the book has a happily ever after (the best romance novels do, after all), and, yes, the prankster wins himself a doctor once all is said and done.
No, this is not your run-of-the-mill romance, outside of the usual boy-meets-girl, they are attracted, plot twist, they fall in love, plot twist, resolution, happily ever after. The structure of a romance novel is probably the most confining of structures that exist in the world of fiction writing.
Yet Trinidad manages to take this framework, the medium and the genre and make it her own smorgrasbord of feelings. You feel so comfortable crying openly while reading her work—and I did, especially over the back-story of why Cris wanted to end it all. I sighed so hard in relief when Nathan managed to get Cris away from the ledge.
I’d first encountered Trinidad’s work when she sent a short story to the literary inbox for the Graphic’s fiction pages in 2016. It was a story about a cat that saved its humans by giving up its nine lives, one by one. That story, “Giving Lives” won Trinidad the third prize for fiction in the 2016 Nick Joaquin Literary Awards. That story also gave me all sorts of warm, fuzzy, sad and, ultimately happy feels.
What one should expect when reading “Ghost of a Feeling” is that one should have a box of facial tissues ready. Also, don’t be surprised if you laugh aloud and uncontroillably at some parts. Finally, prepare yourself for the deep sighs you will exhale at the end, when you read the penultimate lines. They are gorgeously sweet.
Here is a story that takes you through all those emotions you’re probably uncomfortable feeling. Trinidad’s “Ghost of a Feeling” gives you a safe place to feel all these things and walk through her characters’ experiences. There are no bad guys in this story, and that, too, is a blessing.
This book is a romance novel, and it is a brilliantly beautiful example of a love story that takes its tensions from emotions, rather than from external forces.
Brava, Celestine. We will have a shelf ready for whatever else you decide to publish to remind us to exercise our feels.