Book Review: How We Disappeared

20 May 2020 / 10:28 H.

This is the first novel by Singapore-born author Jing-Jing Lee.

Plot-wise, she bravely ventures into the time of the Japanese occupation, an era many authors from Malaysia and Singapore have used as the backdrop of their stories.

Before you sigh and wonder if this is a rehash of what you already know, please give this book a chance.

The central character in How We Disappeared is Wang Di, who lives a simple life with her parents and brothers, waiting for the day she will be married off.

However, like many other young Chinese women during that time, the then-17-year-old Wang Di is rounded up along with other young ladies, and forced to become a comfort woman for the Japanese soldiers.

The story then shifts to the year 2000, when 12-year-old Kevin hears his grandmother Wang Di confess to doing something terrible in the past during the war.

Determined to uncover what could be a family secret, Kevin unwittingly sets off a chain of events.

How the two storylines, the past and present, are connected to each other makes up the rest of the book.

While the setting and certain aspects of the plot has been covered by other authors, Lee creates something new with her characters.

Lee is said to be inspired by her own great-grandfather’s experiences. That will explain the vivid pictures of a simpler time before the horrors of war set in.

Essentially this book sheds light into what happened to girls like Wang Di who are forced to rebuild their lives after what they endured.

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