Thank you to the publisher for sending me a free copy of the book.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel set in Singapore about a woman who survived the Japanese occupation and a man who thought he had lost everything. For fans of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko and Georgia Hunter’s We Were the Lucky Ones.
Singapore, 1942. As Japanese troops sweep down Malaysia and into Singapore, a village is ransacked, leaving only two survivors and one tiny child.
In a neighbouring village, seventeen-year-old Wang Di is bundled into the back of a troop carrier and shipped off to a Japanese military brothel where she is forced into sexual slavery. After sixty years of silence, what she saw and experienced there still haunts her present.
In the year 2000, twelve-year-old Kevin is determined to find out the truth – wherever it might lead – after his grandmother makes a surprising confession on her deathbed, one she never meant Kevin to hear, setting in motion a chain of events he could never have foreseen.
Weaving together two timelines and two very big secrets, this stunning debut opens a window on a little-known period of history, revealing the strength and bravery shown by numerous women in the face of terrible cruelty. A profoundly moving novel, it is based partly on the author’s great-grandfather’s experiences.
I’ve recently started professing my love for the dual narrative/dual timeline storytelling technique. As a reader, it feels like I’m cheating the system: I’m getting two stories for the price of one. Add to that the suspense and mystery it usually adds to the story (will their paths cross?!), and the depth it brings by providing multiple points of view, and it’s a home run for me. All of that to say How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee was a fantastic read.
In this book, there are two narrators: Wang Di, whose narration takes place both in 2000 and 1941-1945 during WWII, and Kevin, who is narrating from the year 2000. At first, it seems that their stories are unrelated and it’s just two tales being told side-by-side. But as it progresses, little nuggets begin to take shape, and you realize there’s more than just what meets the eye. I love that in a book – the peeling back of layers to expose the complexities of a life. In addition to the mingling of their stories, I enjoyed comparing the lives of these two characters living in the same country, but at such different times. Seeing the changes in culture and lifestyle, but also the similarities between their experiences is such a great reminder of the truth behind the phrase “different but the same”.
I also want to mention the setting. The story takes place in Singapore, a country I know only in name. I know nothing about it’s history, and have only seen glimpses into its current state from the occasional news story. I loved learning about both time periods through this book, especially the “comfort women”. And I don’t say that to mean it was fun and exciting, but rather that my eyes have been opened a little wider. I could go off on a long–winded tangent here about all the intricacies of war and how baffled I am every time I learn about yet another “new” detail I’d been blind to before, but I’ll leave it at that. All of this takes me back to conversations I’ve had recently with fellow book lovers. For me, reading is about many things, including learning and history lessons. I’ve joked, but there’s some truth to it, that if history class had been this engaging back when I was in high school, I’d have retained so much more information.
The verdict: add How We Disappeared to your WWII TBR pile. It’s a unique setting and a history lesson, but it’s also a heartfelt story of two characters trying to carve out a calm peaceful place for each of themselves.
Highly recommend. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Book stats: Hardcover, 352 pages, Hanover Square Press, May 7, 2019
***Giveaway*** I’m excited to be partnering with TLC Book Tours and Hanover Square Press to share a copy of How We Disappeared with one of you! Dual timeline narratives have become a favorite of mine, and I’m constantly on the lookout for more titles to add to my list. Leave me a recommendation in the comments below to get entered for a chance to win. Don’t have a recommendation? Tell me what appeals to you about this book, and that’ll count. Giveaway is limited to US and Canadian addresses only. Giveaway will remain open through Sunday night, 5/5/19, until 11:59 PM CST. Winner will be notified via email early next week and will have 48 hours to respond, or prize is forfeited to the next name drawn. Good luck!
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for organizing this tour. Follow the rest of the tour stops Here.