All Jay Reguero wanted to do was play some video games, not talk to his family and finish out his senior year of high school. He didn’t want attention, and he didn’t want to make waves. The death of his cousin Jun changed all of that. In Filipino-American author Randy Ribay’s third novel, Patron Saints of Nothing, Jay knows that the only way to find out happened to his cousin is to travel back to the Philippines, where his father emigrated from 17 years before.
The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has a shockingly brutal plan to eliminate crime in the country: arrest all of the drug users and sellers, and if they resist, kill them. Before leaving, Jay learns that Jun was killed as part of Duterte’s initiative. Jay cannot reconcile this with the Jun who had sent him so many letters for years, and he knows there must be more to the story. As Jay spends time with his extended family in the Philippines, he learns that knowing the whole truth doesn’t make understanding it any easier.
While Jay and Jun’s story is fictional, the mass assassination of Filipinos is not. Jay is confronted with stark class divisions, extreme systemic poverty, fervent national pride and a growing understanding that not everything has a simple, linear answer. Patron Saints of Nothing combines personal letters and lyrical prose to create a story that causes Jay and the reader to wrestle with who they truly are and what they really believe.