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.

December 5, 2015

What do you say about one of the people you love the most in this world? I could tell you how wonderful she is, how caring and thoughtful she is to her family and how loyal she is to her friends and those dearest to her; that her sense of self is more solid than anyone I’ve ever met– that her abilities are endless. But that wouldn’t be a fun speech. It would be a nice speech but not a fun one.

So let’s start from the beginning. Growing up with Liz was pretty unmemorable I have to say. She always kept to herself and minded her own business- so much so that Helen and I didn’t even really notice her until we were about 4 and 6 years of age. Me 4, Helen 6 that is. Liz was always a quiet and patient child. She was carefree and simple-natured. If she ever thought something was unfair or felt an injustice inflicted upon her she would make her feelings quietly known but then quickly move on. That’s the thing about Liz– she has a unique resilience and a quiet strength about her.

Which is the exact opposite of who I know her to be today.

For those of you who know her well too, you’ll often recognize her singular brand of tough-love. A barrier that is extremely difficult to puncture. She doesn’t allow others to feel sorry for themselves which is very difficult for me, as I often feel very sorry for myself. She finds ways to remind you how short life is, how privileged we are but sometimes her words are a little harsher than she intends them to be. Here are some examples of our past exchanges on every day subject matters:

Me: I don’t want to eat that.
Liz: That’s all we have you little Baluga.

Me: It’s freezing out! I’m so cold.
Liz: That’s because you have no soul.

Me: He doesn’t like me.
Liz: Who cares, nobody does. Move on.

Me: I didn’t get the job.
Liz: You’ll get another one. Stop being a cry baby.

Me: I’ve been sick for over a week…
Liz: That’s because you’re a diseased weakling.

As harsh as her words are sometimes, you can almost, almost (sometimes you have to try real, real hard) to see the nugget of compassion in her words. She really just wants you to stand up to life and stare fear in the eyes and let the chips fall where they may. And just accept it like a champ.

And thus, my ability to function as a human being on as high a level as I do today, is fully credited to her. She is not only my little sister- she is my caregiver, my reality check, my rock and clearly, as per the examples above- my bully. And so, I thank her- for if there was no her, there would be less of me.

I’d now like to take this opportunity, on behalf of Liz and Adam, to thank two very important people. For without these two people, there would be no union to celebrate. And these two people are: myself and Camille. You see, Liz met Adam through Mike who was at the time dating Nikki (now married) who was introduced by Rita who is our friend and also Mike’s brother Mat’s wife. So you see, if not for Cam and I, none of you would be here on this day, drinking unlimited free booze. You’re all very welcome.

Until Liz met Adam, there was only one person in Liz’s life that was as obsessed with her as he is today. That person is me. So Adam, I hope you can forgive me for how protective I was of Liz when you both first started dating. Not so much protective of her heart, but more so protective of our time together. I am not certain of much- but I do know this – two people as in love as you two are, should never be separated, not even by me, not even for a minute. You are the mate to her soul.

And finally, I’d like to officially welcome Adam into our family. Not only have you always been there for Liz, but you have always been a strong member of this family, even from the beginning. It has been a pleasure getting to know you. Heck, you blend in so well sometimes I forget you’re white and we’re Asian.

So, what do you say about one of the people you simply cannot live without? You say that she is simply the best person you know.

A toast- may you both always remember this day and remember how well I spoke of you two but most of all, how much love is in this room. To love, laughter and happily ever after. To Liz and Adam!