I Know This Much Is True

“Do you sometimes want to destroy your brother?”

“No,” I said, struggling to hold it together, “Yes”.

She waited.  Watched me crumble.

“No! Yes! No! Yes! No! Yes!”

I have long to write this review but didn’t know how to do it.  I don’t usually think and re-think the book I’ve finished.  But this book is one of the few.  I reflected back on the things I’ve read, the experiences that the characters went through, as I journeyed it together with them.  I believed that I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb is the only book that I read and cried in almost every page.

Is it possible to love your brother and hate him at the same time?  It is the biggest question.  Dominick and Thomas Birdsey are identical twin brothers.  Both had problems.  Thomas suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and Dominick, the normal one is a broken man.  Apart from having to take care of his brother all his life, Dominick, who worked as a painter is leading a depressing and difficult life, he lost his only child due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), at the result, his marriage ended.  With the stresses he has to go through, he also displays classic symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Things start to change dramatically for Dominick when Thomas cuts off his hand at the public library.  That ended him up at Hatch – maximum security.  Concerned of his brother’s safety (Dominick was covertly informed of the sexual abuse) he’s fighting to have his brother released.

In the course of that fight, Dominick sees a therapist Dr. Rubina Patel, an Indian psychologist, employed at Hatch.  He did it at first for the sake of Thomas’ interest, then for his own sake.

“That’s the trouble with survival of the fittest, isn’t it, Dominick?  The corpse at your feet.  That little inconvenience.”

Dominick had promised his mother that he would take care of Thomas – a promise he meant to keep; a promise that he carries heavily on his shoulder.  As the story progresses, there are many dramas, heartbreaks, anger, failures, childhood traumas, fear, and even death.  Yes, Thomas died.  It was suicide, just when Dominick successfully got him out.

However, despite the depressing theme, the story is quite moving and inspirational.  Throughout the course of the story, Dominic must confront the pain of his past, and the dark secrets deep within himself.  I think every part of the plot is necessary to uncover and to really understand Dominick’s past.  It is in fact, also a story of forgiveness.

“I am not a smart man, particularly, but one day, at long last, I stumbled from the dark woods of my own, and my family’s and my country’s past, holding in my hands these truths; that love grows from the rick loam of forgiveness; that mongrels make good dogs; that the evidence of God exists in the roundness of things.”

“With destruction comes renovation.”

“It is all connected Dominick,” she said.  “Life is not a series of isolated ponds and puddles; life is this river you see below, before you.  It flows from the past through the present on it’s way to the future.”

This is one of the books that have never left me.  That connection that the writer made between the protagonist and the readers is just incredible.  I think a life experience that anybody can relate to.  A very powerful novel, a very deeply moving that revealed humanity’s deepest needs and fears, and the desire for love and acceptance.

I highly recommend this book for everyone.

Car And Attitude

Dad hit my car this morning. I was reversing my car, to give way to his car to get to the road. My car was behind him. I was at the ‘bridge’ (connect my house compound to the road) when i stopped because a car was coming. Dad was still moving in front, thought he saw me stopped. He was approaching near, i honked twice… Beeeeeppp…beeeppp!!!! BANG!!!! Got hit. Thankfully, it wasn’t serious. Probably just a little scratch. Once that BANG!! Oh…I shouldn’t rush him just because I wanted to take my shower. It was a little scratch, it wasn’t my fault but I think I should be more patient from now on.

A Stranger Though Not

Dinner was served at 8pm on Sunday.  Sitting with about 20 familiar faces in that darkened room was somehow strange and uneasy.  I could not wait to run out that door.  It was a big dinner; lambs, beef, fried rice, noodles, and some vegetables – my appetite just gone.  It was exactly the environment I expecting, and I was right.  They said it was just in your head.  Whatever you think in your head, is the thing you’d get.  It could be, but I wasn’t sure anymore.

I chose the seat nearest to my boss, whom I also called my friend and immediately I regretted my decision.  I should’ve sat at the other table; a smaller one that was behind me.  All girls, but what different would it make?  None I could think of.

The lady sitting in front of me looked very familiar.  I didn’t see her in the gym, but I knew her.  Took me 10 minutes to figure it out who she was.  She was one of the people I’ve interviewed before – a restaurant owner.  Should I greet her?  Should I say ‘hi’?  Should I smile at her?  She seemed to avoid eyes contact with me, so I got her message.  I pretended not to know her.  I smiled that night, but she frowned.  At least that was what I saw.  She saw me, and I was afraid to see her unfriendly expression.

Her restaurant closed down about a year after the interview.  I was told she was abusing her maid and ran away when the police was trying to hunt her down.  A crime reporter told me, so I guess it was true.  I always thought it was just bad business.  With that knowledge, the dreadful night dragged.  A woman on my right was friendly enough to talk to me, but there was nothing in my head; there was nothing to share.  How could you make a conversation with only the other side presenting their ideas?  That was exactly what happened.  They listened to the boss, but I understood nothing they said.  I wanted to get out.

I didn’t ate much that night, I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t watching my diet either.  My heart was simply not there.  It was a weird feeling.  They saw me in the gym almost every day, not that often nowadays.  I felt so lost, I felt like a fool.  Should’ve not agreed to join the dinner.  Eyes fixed on the phone I was holding in my hand, browsing through Facebook, I wasn’t even sure what I was looking at.  Walking out to that room at 9pm to the open air, my heart cleared again.

The Conversations

Blind people have amazing stories to tell.  About the amount of fear that they had to go through; of living in darkness all their lives; of trying to live their lives without being too depended on others, although most of them have to live with financial assistance for the rest of their lives.  Getting out of the house, getting in and out of the bus, going out to the market for groceries, somehow the environment wasn’t very friendly to them.  The only tools they could use to ensure income was their hands.  Basket weaving was the main income for many of the blinds here, well…once upon a time.  Rattan is getting scarce these days and so the demand for them to develop more skills is getting higher.  Some chose to become masseuses – as health is getting popularity, sometimes, they could have decent income.  Some chose to beg on the streets.  They had a centre to help them to develop skills, but somehow, not knowing the reason why, they refused to be in the centre despite numerous persuasions.

Nevertheless, many were forever grateful for the centre and for those who had helped them so much in their lives.  Those who sent them for massage training for example, those who trained them to make crafts despite not able to see, and those who trained them to become excellent athletics.  Douglas Nyambung is a great case.  He has been Malaysia’s defending champion in paralympic swimming for almost 20 years.  No one in Malaysia had ever broken his record at the pool, except himself.

I’ve also talked to people with cerebral palsy – great stories of success and triumph – about dreams of breaking ribbons,  just like Joseph Choo.  Running has changed his life.  Joseph is also an Olympian, a competitive runner who won many medals.  He made it to Paralympic games in Athens in 2011 and of course came home to his proud parents with medals.

Talking to an autistic boy was an interesting one too.  Though a little skeptic whether a conversation could actually take place, 13-year-old Clement Belun answered my questions with so little problem.  He came into spotlight when he first step on the stage to become an emcee in June, 2012 during the National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC) opening.  He was a little shy, but not shy enough to share his dreams to me.  He loved cultures and lifestyles and he liked to put them into frame.  That led to his great passion – photography.

“I want to become a photographer when I grow up.  I know to take photographs.  When time comes, I will capture the lifestyles and cultures of different people in digital images.”

I had the privilege to talk to a world famous Canadian BASE jumper Lonnie Bissonnette last year.  An inspiring man who didn’t give up on his dream despite been told that he would never jump again.  He had an accident when he did his 1,100 jump.  Bissonette is the world’s first and only paraplegic BASE jumper.

Remember those school times,  where you passed around those papers just to have conversation with your friends behind you, in front of you, or maybe just beside you.  Teachers were teaching in front no one was allowed to make a noise.  Two of you were having conversation, but it looked as if you were taking notes.  Interviewing 27-year-old Amy Lau brought me back to that old times.  She was probably one of the most interesting people I’ve talked to thus far.  She had hearing impaired since birth.  I don’t want to say ‘deaf’ because it felt rude.  Anyways, it was interesting also because it was the quietest interview i’ve ever done.  It didn’t feel like I was interviewing her at all.  I felt like I was talking to a new friend.  There was no recorder, just notebook and a pen.  It was just smiling and writing.

Her life was pretty ordinary – not all that great like the few people I’ve mentioned.  But, one thing she was passionate about; her family.  Amy is married and her husband also has hearing and speaking disabilities.  However, the couple is blessed with a one-year-old son who did not inherit their disabilities.

Amy told me that she wanted to become a good sign language teacher.  I’ve always wanted to know how does it feel of not being able to hear, she said everything was just quiet.  Well, obviously.  She did not know how music sounds like.  Surprisingly, she loved movies, of course with the help of the subtitles.  Her talent was in making crystal and baking.

Her husband worked as mechanics.  He switched from being a baker to mechanics because he needed better income to support his wife and son.  His aspiration was nothing but being a good husband and a good father to his son.  I asked them, ‘Do you wish that you could hear and talk just like other people?’ and their answer was no, because they learned to to live with their fate.

“It’s okay that I can’t hear or speak.  I can still communicate with others in my own way.  I have a family and I am not lonely,” Amy said.