Welcome to my first-ever book review on The Great Big Jump. I know I’ve been a slacker when it comes to book reviews, but as soon as I saw the title I just could not resist reading it – and when I found out that it was on a blog tour, I had to jump at the chance to review it. Read on…
DON’T FORGET THE SOAP and Other Reminders from My Fabulous Filipina Mother
by Marie Claire Lim Moore
About the Book:
At the center of many good stories – inspiring, entertaining, admittedly corny – is Marie Claire Lim Moore. Ask her about the time she and her family sat down with former Philippine President Corazon Aquino. Or the time she built houses in Mexico alongside former American President Jimmy Carter. Equally engaging are her every day experiences and perspective on life. You will be interested to hear what she thinks is a relationship “deal breaker” or why Christmas should be regulated or why kids shouldn’t say, “I’m bored.”
Don’t Forget the Soap is a collection of anecdotes from different points in Claire’s life: stories from the tight-knit Filipino community in Vancouver mix with memories of her move to New York, experiences at Yale and travels as a young executive. Underlying this narrative is the story of a global citizen who does not want to forget the fundamental values that come along with the “immigrant experience” as she and her husband raise their children in the increasingly glitzy expat bubble of Singapore. Her parents continue to remain a big influence in her life and her mother’s reminders a grounding force. These stories will warm the heart and resonate with people of any culture.
In the introduction to her book, Marie Claire Lim Moore compares her family to a real-life sitcom without the laugh track, “complete with life lessons at the end of each day.” Her parents were first-generation immigrants to North America who never forgot the ways of the home country, even as their own children found their way to fit in with their peers. Throughout the book, there are stories of “the immigrant experience” as seen through the eyes of the second generation: karaoke sessions, balikbayan boxes, stretching out meals at restaurants to feed as many people as possible.
Make no mistake about it, however: Don’t Forget the Soap is more than just another immigrant story. Moore’s anecdotes about her “corny” family are not just laugh-out-loud episodes, but snapshots of a loving family living through a moment of political and personal upheavals. Most of the stories center on Moore’s mother Lenore Lim, who has had a long career as a teacher before becoming an artist in her own right. Lenore lives her life according to what she calls as “corporate works of mercy” – little gestures that make family and friends feel special. The fancy hotel soaps and tiny shampoo bottles in her balikbayan boxes are wrapped like precious gifts. Her children – Claire (the author) and Justin – are taught the values of giving back to their communities. Her trips to Vancouver, New York, and Singapore are punctuated with appointments to visit family, friends, and even acquaintances to whom she owes debts of gratitude:
For some people, living life with no regrets means taking that chance to skydive while they’re young and without kids. For my mother, it means not missing an opportunity to make those she cares about happy.
This is not to say that Lenore is a selfless martyr. She does not let her children say the word “hate” because they haven’t experienced enough of the world to know what it means; same with the word “stupid,” which should only be reserved for adults. When Claire tells her that she’s “bored,” she tells her that she’s too creative to run out of things to do: “Use your imagination and entertain yourself.” These sitcom-worthy lessons eventually make an impact on Claire, who realize that the use of the word “bored” puts people on the defensive by putting in more effort than necessary to make the other person happy.
Even the dreaded cliche of piano and violin lessons for children get their own spin in the Lim family. True, the music lessons were a way of instilling discipline and perseverance for the children, but their mastery is not shown off for the prestige. Rather, the musical talents are best enjoyed among friends and family, which becomes a good way of showing gratitude to their parents who have already taken the time and effort to take them to and from their lessons. It’s also a good way to teach kids that “sometimes you have to do things that you don’t want to,” and that they should get used to being in front of a crowd regardless of what they’re doing.
And there are more stories to tell about the Lim-Moore family, from People Power and petitioning relatives to “party planes” and hair nets. You’ll be touched by the heart-warming generosity of this family to each other and towards others, while still maintaining their own traditions and idiosyncracies.
If you’re single and childless like me, Don’t Forget the Soap reads like the parenting manual that you wish you had, or should have at hand just in case: funny, honest, peppered with pop-culture references and quirky life lessons. You will want to call up your parents (or guardians) afterwards, and tell them how grateful you are for the lessons that you have learned from them. It’s a great big hug in a book.
About the Author:
Marie Claire Lim Moore is a Filipina-Canadian-American working mother and author of Don’t Forget the Soap. After spending the early part of her childhood in Vancouver, Claire moved to New York City and attended the United Nations International School. She went on to study at Yale, climb the corporate ladder at Citi and travel around the world. She met her husband, Alex, while working in Sao Paulo, Brazil and they married in Manila, Philippines shortly before moving to Singapore. Now Mom to Carlos and Isabel, Claire also manages the Global Client business for Citi in Asia. She enjoys juggling career and family and likes to throw in community and politics for fun by campaigning for US political candidates, fundraising for organizations that advance the role of women in business and promoting foreign direct investment in the Philippines. She is also a guest contributor at Sassy Mama Singapore.