Jim and Lynn

Peter and Rosita

May Chu and Hin Chew

Escape from Paradise has received an excellent review in the Fall/Winter 2002-2003 edition of The Book Reader.

And this story, of the underside of paradise, has stories within stories as a woman manages to break free from a web of wealth and power in the dictatorship of Singapore and escape to America where the word 'freedom' takes on special meaning... a somber, very human tale of a woman's remarkable journey

Escape from Paradise

Lynn & Rosita

Escape from Paradise is dedicated to my sisters-in-law, who were there as well—Lynn Hawkins & Rosita Barlic. They had married into the Chung family before me, and were with me on the day of my wedding.

From the book:

At 7:00 p.m. sharp, Hin Chew and I, our parents, Hin Chews three brothers, Jim, Peter, and Paul, and my two white sisters-in-law were ready to receive the guests, all one thousand of them.

Dwarfed by Our
Wedding Cake


Lynn, a tall blonde English girl, was the wife of Jim, the younger brother of my husband, Hin Chew.

From the book:

Jim, at six feet two, was a good head taller than Hin Chew. You could see right off that he was also a kinder soul, not driven, but a beta-wolf. Lynn was ideal for him. She was blonde, diplomatic, cautious, and strong.

Lynn’s diplomacy and strength served her well, when the time of intense crisis came for the Chung family.

From the book:

Jims wife, Lynn, a resourceful strong-willed English girl, was unable to bring herself, until years later, to tell me exactly what had happened with the police in Brunei.

She and her husband, Jim, S. P.s number two son, had been awakened during the night by a party of six plainclothesmen from the Royal Brunei Police. They were looking for Hin Chews father, S. P. Chung. Fortunately, the wily S. P., a step ahead of the police, was safely out of Brunei.

The police searched every part of Lynns house in Brunei, including a locked room, upstairs, where S. P. kept his archives. At one point, Jim, trembling with nerves, had to go to the bathroom—this he was allowed to do only with a policeman present. After several hours of searching the house, the police left, but only after confiscating Jims passport and informing him that he could not leave Brunei. The police carted off all the documents and papers they could find in the house.

The next morning, accompanied by a lawyer, Jim drove Lynn and their daughter, Tammy, only five months old, to the airport where he managed to get them on a flight to Singapore and freedom.

Unfortunately, on that very day, Hin Chew was arriving at that same Brunei airport with no knowledge of what had happened the night before. Predictably, Hin Chews passport was confiscated on arrival, and he too was told that he could not leave Brunei.

On reaching Singapore, Lynn went directly from the airport to the apartment of Peter, S. P.s number three son, and his Australian wife, Rosita, an attractive brunette.

Peter was tall, slim, and the only one of S. P.s sons able to grow a real mustache. He was considered, even by himself, to be the best looking of S. P.s four sons.

At Peters apartment, Lynn was surprised to find that a meeting with a third person had been arranged for her. It was someone she knew, an American named Dan Arnold. Lynn was alarmed over the presence of this outsider, as Jim had confided to her previously that Dan Arnold was in the CIA, and that he was a business associate of the Chungs.


Rosita’s parents had migrated to Australia from Croatia when Rosita was a child, and she bore the scars of a difficult life—common to those from that part of the world.

From the book:

Rosita was direct, dominating, fearless, and foolish, nothing like Lynn. Her in-your-face attitude would not serve her well in a Chinese household, and Lillian couldnt stand her. Rositas chain smoking, seemingly a small thing, annoyed both S. P. and Lillian, especially since Peter had taken up the habit, as well.

It was fortunate for Rosita that she had given the Chungs a grandson. That gave her a bit of status in the family. She was OK for now, but, if I too had a son, the first born of the first born, I would replace her as the family's prized cow. My fingers were crossed, and I'm sure hers were, as well.

Rosita’s strong will and dominant personality would help her to survive life with the Chungs—unfortunately, in Escape from Paradise, not everybody survived.

From the book:

Peter's newfound freedom, power, and company expense account had a predictably harmful effect on his marriage. Up to this point, Rosita, being three years older than Peter, and strong-willed, had been the dominating force of their partnership.

Rosita led, and Peter followed.

But little boys do grow up to become big men, and Peter had taken up with someone new.

Her name was Elsie, and she was tough competition. She was at least 5' 10", had high cheekbones, a big wide smile, thick bangs, and hair down to her ass. Elsie was a former Miss Singapore, and had taken third place in the Miss Asia Pacific beauty contest-two places ahead of the American contestant-top quality merchandise!

May Chu

And my fate? From the Book:

I connected the dots—S. P., Dan Arnold, Bush.

Far fetched?

Was the shabby little Chinaman from Mumong with US$48 million in liquid assets far fetched? Was Anna Plains, larger than the state of Rhode Island far-fetched? Hin Chews detention in Brunei with his life in danger. Was that far-fetched? Was Alexander Irvine a mirage? Were Dan Arnolds helicopters a fib?

For me, this was all much more than far-fetched—it was a nightmare.

Could S. P.s connections, his world whatever it was, cause problems for me, if I tried to leave Hin Chew? Life with the Chungs was making me ever more isolated and alone, devoid of friends or allies.

How could I escape from a family like the Chungs? I saw what Peter had done to Rosita.

And what were my chances?

In the end, none of us fared well at the hands of the Chungs.

From the book:

I was happy that we were escaping, but sad at leaving Singapore, which, whatever its faults, held a lifetime of memories for me. My final thoughts were of Lynn, Rosita, and myself, the three daughters-in-law who gave the Chungs a new generation of seven grandchildren.

Each one of us was a victim who had suffered at the hands of the Chungs. In the early days of our marriages, young wives that we were, we had no idea what was in store for us.

lThe Tiger Balm Kings