Carla De Guzman’s Midnights in Bali takes the readers to Bali, Indonesia, through the lens of an unexpected romance between two travelers. Complete with rich descriptions of scenic locations and local culture, hijinks between newfound friends and lovers, and an unplanned trip worth cherishing, Midnights in Bali is a treat for those looking for a quick but worthwhile read.
The story revolves around Ava Bonifacio, a 20-something-year-old paralegal who modeled her life after “The Plan”—a supposedly foolproof timetable she created that would serve as her guide to her milestones. However, following a single night filled with a messy breakup and a notice of her rejection from law school, she books a flight to Bali on a whim to recover from her troubles. For the duration of the trip, she is paired with Scott McLeod, a grouchy Scottish traveler, who eventually becomes the key for Ava to realize that life runs on no predetermined plan after all.
Ava’s desire for—sometimes excessive—control in her life is balanced by Scott’s carefree, whatever-goes personality. They live the way they do for their own reasons—Ava wanting to continue her late father’s legacy as a lawyer, and Scott believing his life is nearing its expiration date due to a health scare. Nevertheless, they learn from each other through their differences, allowing themselves to see life in different perspectives.
Throughout the trip, they grow to become each other’s strengths, handing each other the respective advice that they need. Scott excellently shares his sentiment on Ava’s predicament for her future: “Having a plan is great, but you have to leave a bit of wiggle room for the unknown.” Ava, on the other hand, gives Scott her food for thought, referring to his lonely battle for his health. “What’s the point of fighting if you don’t have anyone to do it for?”
“Bali is the beautiful place for lovers!”
Despite only being bound by a hundred pages, De Guzman’s descriptions of the different spots in Bali, such as Puseh Desa Batuan Temple and Tanah Lot, are impressively vivid, but still leave enough room for imagination. It is as if the reader were also part of the vacation, being given the chance to watch the characters interacting throughout the story through a fly-on-the-wall view.
The local culture is showcased well, too. Readers are given a glimpse into the Balinese way of life. Via the eyes of the tourists Ava and Scott, and their tour guide Wayan (which, according to the book, means “big brother” in Balinese), the passion for artistry and religious devotion in Bali is highlighted. De Guzman also notes the similarities between Balinese and Filipino culture through Ava, who cheerily mentions them to her companions during their day trip, or simply makes a mental note to herself.
In what was originally a trip to momentarily escape from her failures, Ava’s brief but meaningful journey to Bali gave her the opportunity to appreciate life as it goes by every day—without making an overly-rigid itinerary that would only prove to be troublesome in the end. Like Ava, we must learn to open our minds and hearts to new possibilities, and make space for anything that could arrive in the future—whether we are ready for it or not.
Overall, this book perfectly encapsulates the often repeated phrase, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”