There are two primary characters featured in "Scent of Apples" by Filipino writer Bienvenido N. Santos. The narrative voice is that of Santos, a character modeled on the author. On a speaking engagement in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Santos meets a humble Filipino farmer in exile named Celestino Fabia.
The narrator is a writer and traveler, and a man of sophistication and education. Fabia is married to an American woman named Ruth, described by the author in physically unflattering terms, but it is also clear he has respect for her character. Fabia and Ruth have a young son, Roger, who is curious about his father's roots. Fabia introduces himself to the narrator and invites him home to dinner in the country. Fabia and his family live in challenging poverty, and Fabia shares his nostalgia for the Philippines with his wife and son. The sadness at the heart of the story is two-fold: first, Fabia understands he may never return to his native soil; second, it is ironic that Fabia longs for home, given the emotionally harsh and divisive family matters that compelled his departure. "Scent of Apples" is about exile, whether emotional, physical or temporal. Santos uses it to display his distinct talent for capturing a vast emotional range in a short, succinct tale.