North of Normal by Cea Sunrise Person

North of NormalCea Sunrise Person is abnormal. She is abnormal in all the ways a human being can be (in her upbringing and circumstantially at least) but her eternal and universal longing to fit in is what makes her one of the most relatable people I’ve ever read about (and I’ve read plenty). And so this is the premise of Cea’s extraordinary tale. Her journey begins with unforgettable stories from her wilderness childhood filled with memories of living off the land miles and miles away from concrete civilization, and completely being immersed in, her then normal, the vast natural Canadian landscapes that surrounded her. These memories live alongside painful ones Cea has found courage to relive and write about- memories of innocence lost and overcoming abusive trauma time and time and time again. At the root of her life’s journey is a painful, difficult, frustrating and complex relationship with her mother. It would be hard to imagine any woman, much less a mother, reading this book without feeling a sense of heartbreak and disappointment for Cea and the mother she was handed. But just like Cea, hopefully we all will learn that perspective, acceptance, and forgiveness are at the core of every happy soul.

In retelling her truths, Cea Person normalizes the singular fear we all feel and lets us know, we are not alone.

This book is for everyone- everyone who ever felt like they wanted to fit in; for awardeveryone who ever felt like giving up and everyone who ever felt like they weren’t enough. This book is for every Person.

There is unique strength born from a youth spent longing for something different.

-Cea Person

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The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

This book made me angry. It enraged me and elicited emotions I long buried. Ruth Wariner was born and raised into a polygamous family.  Her mother, the former wife of a church leader who was later murdered by one of his brothers in the fight for power, remarries another church follower.

the-sound-of-gravel

Ruth’s engrossing narrative begins here- with a meager life of helping her mother with domestic chores such as cooking, cleaning and raising her growing number of siblings and half-siblings. In her memoir, Ruth recounts the despicable and painful details of the neglect and abuse she suffered at the hands of the very people that she entrusted the most. The depth of Ruth’s familial loyalty, her brave young soul and her ability to forgive are what is truly inspiring but it is also what ends up hurting your heart- page after page. For every former child who has ever felt the enduring failure of a parent, this book will test your spirit of forgiveness and may reignite those long forgotten memories. award

Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris

Paris’ suspenseful debut novel finds an old familiar tale of domestic abuse gone even wronger (if I may). At times this book captured my wavering attention and other times I found myself annoyed by its repetitiveness and its increasingly outrageous premise.

behind-closed-doors

The abuser/husband imprisons his new wife (who once mistakenly fell for his prince charming cloak) and always manages to stay one step ahead of her, however, not in any way that is believable but rather extremely unlikely. There were times when this author could have saved the novel but Paris chose to pave a road that led down to a predictable ending and I was truly glad it ended.

In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park

in-order-to-liveWith North Korea as this books backdrop and a harrowing true story of survival and escaping the unthinkable, this book grabs you by your ear on the very first page. Little has ever been known of this private, contained and systematic country but in this enigmatic memoir, Yeonmi Park, describes in tragic detail the normality of her daily life as she remembers it. Her suffering is only punctuated further by her innocence of what she imagined normal life to be like everywhere else in the world. She talks about simple luxuries we, in North America, take for granted like being allowed to wear a pair of jeans, watching television and the joys of eating a raspberry (something she didn’t even know existed until she escaped her former home).

Under the North Korean dictatorship, Yeonmi and her close-knit family slowly began to realize that staying in North Korea would only lead to negative and possibly detrimental awardoutcomes. Their endless trials in a time when hope waned so thin and all the times that fate had escaped their grasp is what truly makes this a heartbreaking and unbelievable tale to read. Yeonmi’s strong reserve, survival instincts and indomitable spirit makes her the only heroine you want to root for, and you do- long after you finish the book.

I’m Pregnant

At least that’s what I told the boot camp instructor. Yesterday Rita decided that it would be a good idea to provide us with a free pass to, what we thought/were told was, an introductory boot camp class. Cam was on board and I was lured by the promise of Mexican food at the end of the session and so I reluctantly agreed (as is the case with all the other misadventures I’ve been lured into). At first glance we didn’t seem the most unfit individuals in the class that took place in an expansive, residential and quiet park in the burbs of Newmarket. There were other girls there that were slightly on the heavier side and more importantly, pregnant ladies. For sure we thought we had it in the bag. After all, I run at the gym regularly (and by running I mean I prance and move any which way on the treadmill that will prevent me from falling on my face at a minimal speed of 5.0). But forward we marched, or ran rather. We ran about six blocks at a pace that most expert joggers would have classified as a brisk skip but by block two we began falling behind and cursing the wind. (The wind did nothing to us but we were just that angry at the world.)

After our grueling run we began the first circuit which the instructor dubbed as “hell”. We acknowledged with nervous laughter but of course by this time Cam and I were more excited to be stationary than anything else so we didn’t really put much thought into how bad the next exercise could be– anything was better than running for our lives. But hell it turned out to be. Never in my life had I ever considered how difficult any boot camp class could have been. During the period of great confusion and sadness (the circuit of hell), I contemplated many things, which included the following:

-“If I run now, which bus could I take to get home? Are there even buses here? Damn Newmarket!!”

-“How does one legitimately fake passing out? Seriously, do I just slowly slither into a fetal position??” [replays in head all the fainting scenes in movies to make it seem believable]

-“These people PAY HER to do this to THEM??? My God!”

-“I think I’m having a heart attack. Seriously. Some. One. Help. Me.”

-“New memoir title: I’m pregnant and other lies I tell my boot camp instructor. [Noted!]” 

-“Dear Lord, I have never really asked you for much but today, please Lord, right now make it rain– only just enough for her to stop. I need a break!!!”

Humiliation is a tough pill to swallow. One never wants to lose or be the loser. Everyone wants to win or do well. But at this delusional stage in the class I thought it was about life or death, and my life was worth more than looking like a sad loser. And so I stopped; I simply became motionless and avoided eye-contact with the instructor. I didn’t care if no one else stopped or that everyone else thought that I couldn’t handle it because the truth was I was only there for Mexican food and this was becoming a serious health risk. (Okay, I couldn’t even write that last sentence without laughing inside.) Fine, my life was not in danger but it was horrible—the most horrific physical exercise I had ever endured. Never had I ever wanted to violently punch anyone out more than the instructor that kept yelling at us and calling us pussies (especially after she told us that it was actually week eight exercises that we were doing as opposed to beginners exercises). Okay fine, maybe she didn’t yell at us, maybe she just raised her voice in a higher pitch than I would have preferred. And maybe she wasn’t calling us degrading names but she definitely made us feel bad and that’s all that I could remember in my haze.

In the moments when I came to and when my mind began operating at a normal person’s speed again, I realized that I didn’t want to just sit there for the remainder of the class and look like a sulking four year old so I picked up my limp body, dusted it off and declared that I was with child so that I, too, could be down-graded to more manageable exercises (which were just as terrible so props to the preggos, seriously). In the end, I did get the food that I was promised and Aunt Flo came by and confirmed I was not pregnant after all.