In 1942 Singapore, the world is at war, but it becomes personal when soldiers ransack a village and murder everyone, leaving only two survivors. In a nearby village, girls are taken captive and forced to become “comfort women”—prostitutes—earning them the shame and disdain of their families—if they are fortunate enough to survive and escape. Wang Di was one of these women, and after sixty years of silence, she is finally ready to talk about the horrors she experienced.
In the year 2000, twelve-year-old Kevin is going blind, so he records everything he hears. Including the dying confession of his beloved grandmother…who isn’t really his grandmother at all. Kevin knows this secret is bigger than he is, but he’s determined to find out the truth—and share it.
How We Disappeared isn’t an easy book to read. It’s full of the sometimes-horrific experiences of these characters, but there are glimpses of hope as well. The settings are realistic—good and bad—and, though the book gets off to a slow start, it is well-worth reading.
Jing-Jing Lee is an author and a poet. How We Disappeared is her debut novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Hanover Square Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Alice never expected to be a stay-at-home mom, but 7-year-old Eddie is on the autism spectrum and nonverbal, and needs all the care Alice can give him, while 10-year-old Callie is smart enough to cause herself problems. So, Alice’s world revolves around her kids and her husband, until her beloved grandmother falls ill, and asks Alice to find those she left behind in Poland during WWII. Her only clues are a faded photo of a young man, a tiny leather shoe, and a letter.
In 1940s Poland, Alina is young and in love, and gets engaged to Tomasz just before he goes away to college. She can’t wait to start their future together. Then the Nazis arrive, and her whole world changes to hunger, fear, and a desperate longing for Tomasz. She knows he’ll keep his promise to return to her, but so many obstacles stand in the way, and the darkness around them may sweep them under if anyone finds out their secrets.
This book. This book. Fantastically well-written, I found myself drawn into both timelines effortlessly, caring about both Alice and Alina and their happiness. The horrors of war are captured in small bits, enough to paint the picture, but not so much that the reader can’t move past it. I cried at the end, but this story is filled with so much hope and love. A wonderful read!
Kelly Rimmer is a USA Today bestselling author. The Things We Cannot Say is her newest book.
(Galley courtesy of Graydon House via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
In 1948, World War II has impacted every corner of the globe and brought change. For Rosie Stanton, it brought an opportunity to live and work away from home for the first time, growing her independent nature even stronger. But now she’s back home on her family’s sugarcane farm, which is foundering thanks to her father’s old-fashioned ideas, sabotage from the inside, and her parents’ grief over the loss of her two brothers. Even worse is her father’s dislike of Italians, especially the Conti family that lives next door.
Thomas Conti left the war behind him when he came to Australia but finds prejudice and hatred here as well. Thomas still struggles with his experiences in the war and wants to keep to himself because he just knows he’ll hurt anyone who cares about him. Rosie wants to get to know Thomas, but when a ghost from his past shows up to ruin his future and a bombshell from Rosie’s past destroys who she thinks she is, they’ll have to turn to each other if they’re to survive.
I’d never read anything from this particular setting, so it was an interesting—and sad—read. So much conflict and hatred towards others…kind of like today. Rosie is an interesting character: caught on the brink of a changing world and society but having to fight for every single step she takes forward. I enjoyed this read quite a bit.
Alli Sinclair is an award-winning author. Burning Fields is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Kensington Books/Lyrical Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Pam Jenoff is a lawyer and former government employee who now teaches law school. She is an award-winning author, and her newest novel is The Orphan’s Tale.
Noa’s family kicked her out when she became pregnant by a Nazi soldier. She was forced to give up her baby, and took a job cleaning a rail station. When a boxcar full of Jewish infants headed for a concentration camp stops at the station, Noa finds herself stealing one of the babies and escaping into the snowy night.
A German circus takes Noa in, and she’s forced to learn the trapeze to earn her keep and so she can blend in. Her presence puts the entire circus at risk, and she butts heads with the lead aerialist, Astrid, who must train her. Soon, she and Astrid forge a strong bond, as the threat to the circus looms larger, and the two women must overcome the secrets between them if they—and the rest of the circus—are to survive.
I was supposed to read this last month, and somehow skipped over it. I’m so glad I figured that out and read this! It’s a dark book, set in one of the bleakest periods of human history. World War II-era Germany was a terrifying place to be Jewish, and this danger snakes through every page of this book. The tragedies faced by both Noa and Astrid are harrowing, at best, and the way they fight to overcome them and reach for a brighter future is both inspiring and sad. This is a great read, but not for someone looking for a book that’s light or happy—despite being set in a circus.