Jee reviews #HowWeDisappeared by #JingJingLee @Hanover_Square #HistoricalWW2Fiction #literaryfiction #Singapore #eARC #NetGalley

Title/Author: How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

In a nutshell (Publisher):

A mesmerizing novel of World War II Singapore, “a story about memory, trauma, and ultimately love” (New York Times)—for fans of Pachinko and 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 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.

Verdict: Unpopular opinion

My thoughts:

The story switched between two characters and time line – Wang Di (mostly told during WW2) and Kevin (year 2000). Wang Di had been taken away from her family to serve as a comfort woman i.e sex slave to the Japanese soldiers. Kevin, whose grandmother had just passed away, had left him with a rather mysterious message that spurred him to seek for his family roots. What was his grandmother trying to tell him?

This book shed light to the harrowing lives of comfort women who were taken away from their families with the promise that their families will be paid for their services. Then they were brutally assaulted and raped. If they were impregnated or contracted any diseases, they were ‘discarded’ and treated like their lives didn’t matter. And those who survived the war and returned home were shunned by their families.

This book has gotten many positive reviews, and I wanted desperately to like it, especially one that gives voice to the lost and forgotten, but I just couldn’t. Although I was drawn to Wang Di’s story and the harsh reality and plight that the women had to endure every day while serving those despicable men, I found it hard connecting to the characters. I’m not sure why. I felt the way it was written created a distance. But don’t get me wrong, Lee writes beautifully; just these reasons that couldn’t make me enjoy the story more:

the way the story moved from one story to another and the connection between Wang Di and Kevin can be confusing and seemed complicated at times when trying to figure it out, with their stories crisscrossing each other. I thought I had it all figured out except for a question that kept reoccurring – whatever happened to Wang Di’s baby? Does the baby have anything to do at all to this entire story? And when the story finally reached the end, the author decided to give her baby 3 plausible endings. Why? I honestly didn’t get it.

Overall, I neither loved it nor disliked it. But please don’t let my unpopular opinion stop you from reading this book.

If you enjoy historical fiction (which I do, but this just didn’t work for me), you might enjoy this as much as the others had.

Thank you Netgalley and Hanover Square Press for providing me a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read this book? What did you think? If you haven’t, do you intend to? Please share with me your thoughts!

Thank you for stopping by and HAPPY READING! May the power of good books be with you always!

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Mani says:

    Love the front cover to this one!!


  2. I enjoyed it a little more than you did, but I loved your review, Jee!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Jennifer! ❤️😘

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Jee Wan says:

      Glad you enjoyed it! I was hoping the same for me too but… 😔

      Liked by 1 person

  3. nsfordwriter says:

    It sounds a bit overcomplicated maybe? I wonder also if historical fiction is harder to have relateable characters. I don’t know. I think it’s great that this book includes that particular era of history but I don’t think I could read the details of what happened to the women.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      About characters, I don’t know… Maybe it’s the way some authors write their characters.. Some authors do it really well, historical or not.. and I can emphasize with the characters.. In This novel, I just felt there’s like this distance.. About the details of the comfort women, all I can say is those Japanese soldiers are heartless!! 😡

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Scarlett Readz and Runz says:

    The cover of this novel is gorgeous. Sorry you weren’t able to connect with this novel more. Perhaps the author tried to incorporate / multi-focus too many areas such as plot change, love drama, and general historical details vs. lifting one over the others, making either one stand out most. This may have been the reason that it was harder to grasp onto the main idea. Not sure… As subject content, I am sensitive to mistreating woman in general, but from a historical perspective, I am very interested in learning more about it or reading a fictional novel. Perhaps I will pick it up at the library some day and no harm is done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Yes! I truly agree with your points! It really takes a lot of experience and skills to be able to put different topics in a book while maintaining its main topic at its core, yet without losing the reader’s attention. A library loan is definitely a good idea, Scarlett! 👍🏼☺️

      Liked by 1 person

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