Philippine literature, religious, spiritual nonfiction, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Cebu



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The Newspaper Widow

A Novel by

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2017


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PRESS RELEASE For Immediate release – 7/2017





          Inspired by her great-grandmother, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard wrote about a newspaper woman from 1909 who solves a crime in Ubec. Brainard’s great-grandmother was Remedios Diosomito Cuenco who was widowed at the age of 39, and who took over her husband’s Imprenta Rosario press in Cebu, Philippines. 

           Brainard’s imaginings gave birth to her third novel, The Newspaper Widow (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House 2017), a literary mystery, which starts off with the discovery of a dead priest’s body in a creek, but which is really about the protagonist Ines Maceda and how she fights for her son’s freedom. It is also very much the story of the deepening friendship between two women of opposite temperaments, and of the men in their lives who love and have loved them.   

            The Newspaper Widow, which was shortlisted in the Cirilo Baustista Prize for the novel, has received advanced praise. Dean Francis Alfar, author of Salamanca and The Kite of Stars and Other Stories writes: "Cecilia Brainard’s deft hand for textured character and nuanced storytelling is on magnificent display in her latest novel The Newspaper Widow. What begins as a murder mystery transforms into something greater along the way, as love, loyalty, and friendship are tested and refined.  

            Philippine National Artist for Literature, F. Sionil Jose, says, “That super wordsmith from Cebu, the Philippines, Cecilia Brainard, never spins a boring story. Her latest is a master whodunit that is also a period piece, a social document and most of all, a literary jewel. A must read for any humdrum season
of the year.

            Filipino American writer, Brian Ascalon Roley, (American Son and The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal) praises Brainard’s work by saying, "this poetic new novel, The Newspaper Widow, is an enchanting read. She combines compelling characters with an intriguing mystery and page-turning literary suspense. I can’t think of a more fruitful historical setting, the early years of the United State’s colonial empire in Asia, here so beautifully rendered. Beneath the mystery this is a moving story of a mother trying to protect her adult son from prison.

            American novelist James E. Cherry (author of Edge of the Wind) says: “This is not your run of the mill '"who done it."  Matter of fact, about halfway through The Newspaper Widow, you'll be certain that the lawyer did it – or did he?  But what this is, is Cecilia Brainard weaving her magic of culture, folklore and myth to produce a tapestry of rich Filipino history and that she remains one of its primary artisans.

           The American Southern writer of Trio, A Corpus Christi Trilogy, Eve La Salle Carma, summarizes the novel by calling it "An intriguing mystery and also very much the story of the deepening friendship between two women of opposite temperaments, Ines and Melisande, and of the men in their lives who love and have loved them. Beautifully written. Evocative. A rich depiction of character, time and place that will live in a reader's memory.

          Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, who hails from Cebu, Philippines and resides in California, is the author and editor of 20 books. Her titles include her first novel, (When the Rainbow Goddess Wept), her short story collections (Woman with Horns and Other Stories, Acapulco and Other Stories, and Vigan and Other Stories), nonfiction books, and others. Her third novel, The Newspaper Widow, will be released by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House in 2017.

             Her work has been translated into Finnish and Turkish; and many of her stories and articles have been widely anthologized. Brainard's novel, Magdalena inspired a stage play, Gabriela's Monologue, which was produced in 2011 by the Bindlestiff Studio in San Francisco as part of Stories XII! annual production.

            Brainard received the Outstanding Individual Award from her birth city, Cebu. She has also received a California Arts Council Fellowship in Fiction, a Brody Arts Fund Award, a Special Recognition Award from the Los Angeles City Board of Education for her work dealing with Asian American youths. She also received a Filipinas Magazine Award for Arts, a Certificate of Recognition from the California State Senate 21st District, and several travel grants in the Philippines, from the USIS (United States Information Service).

            The Newspaper Widow is available from the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House (, from, and from




The Newspaper Widow, a novel by
Cecilia Manguerra Brainard
published by the University of Santo Tomas University Publishing House
distributed by PALH

Softcover $18.95 (238 pages)

While at first glance The Newspaper Widow seems like a standard historical mystery, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Cecilia Manguerra Brainard’s novel is full and complex, overflowing with textured, fully realized characters who drive the story on every page.
Ines Maceda, the “newspaper widow,” aims to clear her son’s name. He has been accused of murdering a priest. In addition, Ines grieves for her deceased husband and combats the lingering trauma of earlier miscarriages. Her development is one of the shining elements of the novel—she feels tangible, rooted in the story and the setting.
The Newspaper Widow offers a nuanced glance into Filipino society circa 1908. It is a world rich with history, myth, and ritual; descriptions pulse with life, providing crucial insights into aspects of Filipino culture and world colonial history, such as encounters with the “Island of the Living Dead,” sectioned off to contain those inflicted with leprosy, and once the world’s largest leper colony.
While on the surface the book is a crime story, the plot is actually layered and unique. One of the novel’s greatest strengths is how it raises interesting, complicated questions about morality and justice while Ines searches for the priest’s true killer: Is death ever an apt punishment for a crime? Is revenge moral, or even necessary?
Refreshingly, nothing is black and white.
For all of The Newspaper Widow’s greatness, sometimes there are too many layers to the plot, and the ending falls a bit flat in comparison to the rest of the narrative. But flaws are minor; overall, this is a solid, satisfying work of literature.
Cecilia Manguerra Brainard displays masterful storytelling skill in The Newspaper Widow, a unique, memorable mystery.
MYA ALEXICE (January/February 2018)


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