“The problem was nobody had given me a list detailing all the forbidden topics. Lists helped to make things clear, to line up the thousand and one thoughts that I had in my head. I needed one to show me what it was I wasn’t supposed to say.”

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 343

Published: 7th May 2019

Rate: 4 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

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 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 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.

My Take

I read How We Disappeared on audio last year for book club and I knew that this is a book I wanted to own and read again. Fast forward to January 2022 and I did. In case it isn’t clear, I loved it.

How We Disappeared tells the story of the Japanese invasion in Singapore and the idea of comfort women. As someone who is interested in History, this was such an interesting and illuminating read. Jing-Jing Lee tells a vivid war story and there are some tender parts that completely broke me. The realities of war in this book is so jarring and glaring on the page and you have no choice but to go through it. It can be triggering though so I do recommend treading with caution.

“What she remembered most though, what she liked best, was the way it felt to hear her name, softly spoken.”

The story is told in from two points of view that come to tie in so well in the end. Hats off! The characters are distinct and are well written who tell a story that is harrowing and haunting, and they bring it all to life.

I found How We Disappeared tender and vulnerable and it’s a book that bound me to my seat as I couldn’t put down. I do recommend picking it up, if you haven’t already.

Have you read How We Disappeared? What did you think about it?