Son of Escobar by Roberto Sendoya Escobar

“…say this story is true, the calibre of writing in this book isn’t worth enduring.”

1/5 stars.
ebook, 184 pages.
Read from December 26, 2020 to December 31, 2020.

This book was a selection for my book club. Normally, the beauty of book clubs is reading books that you wouldn’t have read and most of the time that’s a good thing, this time, however, it was not.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know the name, Pablo Escobar. You know, the biggest drug lord in history? The guy has a whole Netflix series (Narcos) about him. The premise of this book is that the author claims that he is Escobar’s firstborn son. In 1965, MI6 operatives raid and shoot up a safe house that results in the death of a young mother with one of the operatives deciding to save her newborn baby (the author). The operative put the child in an orphanage only to adopt him later. The operative learns whose child it is and massive amounts of effort are gone into protecting the child as well as using him to coerce a friendly relationship with Pablo himself. The book details all of the events that happened to the author as he grew up in this strange environment. From kidnappings, shootouts, murder, and more, all while not knowing who his real father is and thinking that having armed guards is a normal part of childhood. Strange meetings were made with Pablo Escobar as the author grew but he was never given an explanation of who Pablo was or the relevance of the meetings. As an adult, the author does eventually learn that Pablo Escobar is his father, apparently, and at the end of his adoptive father’s life, he is given a code that is supposed to be the location of Pablo Escobar’s missing fortune after he was taken down and his property destroyed. The code is published within this book hoping someone will figure out its encrypted location.

If this sounds far fetched to you, you’re not alone. The author has been called out for misinformation and lies since this book’s publication. It makes no difference to me if this story is real or not as people can write whatever they please, however, the writing quality in this book was dire and I didn’t find it all that entertaining. Well, I suppose it was interesting to discuss these points in a book club setting but the book was still a disappointing read. I would not recommend this book as I think it’s likely a money grab and a publicity stunt. Outside of that, say this story is true, the calibre of writing in this book isn’t worth enduring.

The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong

This is a trainwreck of an upbringing that you can’t help but sympathize with, as you berate yourself for laughing at the strangeness of it all.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 304 pages.
Read from March 3, 2019 to March 9, 2019.

Lindsay Wong describes the Woo-Woo as a Chinese superstition that ghosts are the cause of bad things in your life, which unfortunately for her and mental-health-ridden family, meant an array of irrational behaviour followed by never seeking treatment. This book is in the Canada Reads 2019 shortlist after a few near misses in previous years so no doubt this book will be a fan favourite for the debates.

canada-reads-2019-joe-zee-defends-the-woo-woo
Joe Zee defending The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong during the debates taking place on March 25-28, 2019.

Lindsay and her siblings are first generation Chinese-Canadians. Her family came over from Hong Kong and settled in Vancouver which has a large Chinese population giving the city the appropriate nickname of Hongcouver. She lives in an upper-middle-class neighbourhood with her mother father, brother and sister, and for a short time her grandmother. Lindsay basis of daily dealings with her family and her life included things like swearing, name-calling, bribes with money, escaping life decisions and people with makeshift camping trips, and smothering bad feelings and “ghosts” with junk-food. Shouting matches, arguments, grudges and personal hang-ups are what Lindsay thought being a family was all about.

Despite her family having a comfortable income Lindsay wore old, dated clothes and showered once a week. Lindsay lacked the social skills to make friends but her aggression made her an excellent hockey player, an endeavour her father bribed her into to achieve some sort of Canadian-dream status.  Her father insisted that she was extremely stupid and fat as some messed up means of motivating her to achieve more along with a sick sense of dark humour. While her mother fell prey to the mental illness that plagued her own mother resulting in her being obsessed with ghosts and trying to protect her family from them. Her protection came in the form of insisting that her family never show any emotion as to not invite the ghosts in, terrorizing midnight wakings, lighting Lindsay’s feet and bedding on fire, day-long walks in shopping malls, and more.

Lindsay grew up in fear the Woo-Woo as she saw it slowly wreck her grandmother, her mother and eventually even her Aunt, whom she thought was safe. Without the means to empathize and deal with normal human situations in a healthy manner, Lindsay was in constant worry about her own mental state. Despite all this Lindsay managed to get into a university far from home where she was relieved to finally escape her family, only to find that the Woo-Woo seemed to have followed her there.

Even with these enormous hurdles to overcome, Lindsay seems to have found peace and understanding with her upbringing. Despite the dark and sometimes traumatizing events that Lindsay endured she approaches her story with a stoic and entertaining sense of dark humour. This is a trainwreck of an upbringing that you can’t help but sympathize with, as you berate yourself for laughing at the strangeness of it all. It brings awareness to the stigmas around mental illness and the barriers we still have to overcome, especially culturally, which healthcare systems could benefit from learning more about.

If you live in Vancouver, I would absolutely say this is a must-read. This is also a relevant book for those looking from some reprieve from their own families and mental health struggles.

The most moving part of this story comes from Lindsay finding the courage to write such an intimate memoir about her family, especially since she is writing from a standpoint of success in battling her inner Woo-Woo and family troubles. It’s a testament to the power of healing yourself and finding faith in yourself against the odds.