How We Disappeared

Written by Jing-Jing Lee
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

Straddling two timelines and told from the perspective of two narrators, How We Disappeared is an evocative glimpse into Japanese-occupied Singapore during World War II and the calamitous consequences of wartime.

In Singapore in the year 2000, Wang Di has just lost her husband, a man 18 years her senior, who she affectionately refers to as the Old One. For decades, he left the house on a certain date in February, never telling her where he was going, and she never asked. It is only after his death that she feels the need to uncover the secret he had kept from her for decades. This transports her to the 1940s, where another storyline takes place when Wang Di is a teenager and is forced into a human trafficking situation as a sex slave.

Also in 2000, a 12-year-old boy named Kevin has just lost his grandmother, with whom he was very close. Just before she died, she discloses a long-held secret, one that will change his family’s life. The reader knows that the two stories will come together, but they do so in an unpredictable way.

The writing is fluid and the storyline is captivating, as it tells the forgotten stories of the women who did not have the luxury of a voice during this period in history. The narrative is at once dreamlike and gritty, but it likely will leave an indelible impression.