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TLC Review: How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee

Title: How We Disappeared
Author: Jing-Jing Lee
Year Published: 2019

Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 348
Rating: 4 to 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)Singapore

FTC Disclosure: I was given this book for TLC Book Review

Summary (from the back of the book): Singapore, 1942. As Japanese troops sweep down Malaysia and into Singapore, a village is ransacked, leaving on y two survivors ands one tiny child.

In a neighboring village, seventeen-year-old Wang Di is strapped into the back of a troop carrier and shipped off to a Japanese military brothel where she is forced into sexual slavery as a "comfort woman." After sixty years of silence, what she saw and experienced still haunts her.

In the year 2000, twelve-year-old Kevin is sitting beside his ailing grandmother when he overhears a mumbled confession. He sets out to discover the truth, wherever it might lead, setting in motion a chain of events he never could have foreseen.

Weaving together two time lines 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. Drawing in part on her own family's experiences, Jing-Jing Lee has crafted a profoundly moving, unforgettable novel about human resilience, the bonds of family, and the courage it takes to confront the past.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Connect with Jing-Jing: Website | Twitter | Instagram

Review: The description of this book is just so good and enticing and the second half of the book lived up to it. The first half is good, too, it just didn't pull me in as much as the the latter half. Wait. That's not quite right....

This fascinating novel is told by three narrators who rotate chapters: Kevin, a tween boy who is on the spectrum; Wang Di whose story as a comfort woman takes place during the 1940s; and Wang Di in present time. I LOVED the chapters set in the 1940s as they are rich in history, culture, heartbreak, and humanity. I thought the other two chapter rotations were fine. But then, about two thirds of the way in, it all came together and I couldn't put the book down as the connections and story come tumbling out.

Kevin is the character that brings it all together in his naïve way and when it happens I was so pleased that he was a boy of action, going against everything his parents have taught him about restraint, politeness, and decorum. That is something that really touched me in this book; the propensity for restraint in all of the characters. Don't speak up, don't make waves, don't challenge authority, and certainly don't talk about the past, especially when it's really uncomfortable.

The storyline of a Wang Di as a Japanese comfort woman is heartbreaking. The mistreatment of the young women and girls as if they aren't human, by both men and women, the Japanese captors and their own families after the war, is astonishing. I found this part of the novel the most compelling; it's a topic I knew nothing about.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Review tour:

Monday, April 29th: I Write In Books
Tuesday, April 30th: Literary Quicksand
Wednesday, May 1st: Lit and Life
Thursday, May 2nd: Books and Cats and Coffee
Monday, May 6th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, May 7th: 100 Pages a Day
Wednesday, May 8th: The Baking Bookworm
Thursday, May 9th: Tar Heel Reader and @tarheelreader
Tuesday, May 14th: @lavieestbooks
Wednesday, May 15th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, May 16th: Helen’s Book Blog
Monday, May 20th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Wednesday, May 22nd: Run Wright
Thursday, May 23rd: Girl Who Reads
Friday, May 24th: The Lit Bitch
Tuesday, May 28th: Palmer’s Page Turners
Wednesday, May 29th: Book Fidelity

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