A divorcee finds love again in Fil-Am’s debut novel
Maan Gabriel was in the process of writing her debut novel when she found out she was transitioning into menopause.
It was difficult news for her and her husband. They share a son who was around 6 years old at the time, but they wanted more children.
“It was a time I was feeling insecure and vulnerable,” Gabriel told Inquirer.net in an email. She said her novel, After Perfect, became a subliminal representation of her fears.
After Perfect tells the story of Gabriela Stevens, a 36-year-old Filipino American divorcee who finds love again. The book will be published on Tuesday, Oct. 5, by She Writes Press.
While Gabriel did not draw on personal experiences for scenes in her novel – she is not a divorcee and Gabriela is not perimenopause – she drew on broader themes in her life for certain parts of the story. One is that Gabriela shares Gabriel’s ethnic identity as a Filipino American.
“The goal here is to normalize Filipino American representation in literature,” she said. “I wanted to write about someone like me, but not necessarily entirely who I am.”
Gabriel pulled from her relationship with her husband for the dynamic between Gabriela’s parents, gave the main character anxieties similar to her own, and wrote the love of her family and friends into the story.
She and Gabriela both also struggle with their weight.
“The book may have addressed it, but it referred to it nonchalantly because a lot of women go through this – and I want to impart the message that it’s normal, it’s real life, and we are seen,” she said.
As Gabby’s life unfolds in the story, readers will find a character who grows into a more independent person – a stark contrast from the brokenhearted divorcee she is at the beginning of the story.
“One of ‘After Perfect’s’ early readers described Gabby as an inspiration. When I read it, I thought, wow… this was exactly how I want my readers to perceive Gabby and her journey,” Gabriel said. “Although sometimes it’s in disguise, there is beauty in a challenging journey. We don’t see it while we’re in it, but once we reach the destination where we can finally exhale, we often times come out of it wiser, stronger, and grateful.”
Gabriel said she wrote the book for women of all ages to remind them of their innate resilience, their ability to persevere and how greatly they can love.
“It’s in all of us, sometimes we just need to find it,” she said. “Our emotions is not our weakness, it is in fact our greatest strength.”
The message Gabriel wants to share with readers through “After Perfect” is that love is multi-dimensional and that finding love means many different things.
“We shouldn’t box love as we know it,” she said. “We should explore the many possibilities about what love truly means. I’m so excited for that.”
She added that hopes readers will find hope and inspiration from her novel.
“This book aims to empower women to find that spark within that could inspire themselves, and ultimately, others,” Gabriel said. “Gabby embodies everything I aim to be – her kindness, her forgiving heart, her love for family and friends, and most meaningfully, her love for self.”