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The Disappeared

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  2,649 Ratings  ·  397 Reviews
A sixteen year old girl falls in love with a Cambodian student.

A revolutionary closes the borders of a country for four years.

Families, friends, lovers disappear.

Kim Echlin’s powerful new novel tells the story of Anne Greves, from Montreal, who meets Serey, a Cambodian student forced into exile when he cannot return home during Pol Pot’s time of terror. Anne and Serey
Hardcover, 235 pages
Published March 3rd 2009 by Hamish Hamilton (first published 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jennifer (aka EM)
This is a treasure of a book - almost no one on my friends' list here at goodreads has read it. And I know, I know ... I throw four and five stars around like candy on Hallowe'en. BUT: this 2009 Giller nominee is stunning. It almost ripped my heart out. A Montrealer - 16 y.o. Anne Greves - falls in love with a Cambodian refugee, Serey. This is her love letter to him, spanning more than 30 years.

Our disappeared were everywhere, irresistible, in waking, in sleeping, a reason for violence, a reaso
This was an absolutely amazing book. Aside from the first 18 pages, I read it in a day. It was beautifully written in an almost entrancing style and I could not pull myself away from its pages. It captured the passion and emotion of a once-in-lifetime, love-of-your-life kind of love with a raw and beautiful intensity, in stark contrast to the atrocities of Cambodian life under the Khmer Rouge. This is the kind of book which you continue to feel even after you have put it down. Truly inspired.
Canadian girl falls in love with Cambodian boy. Boy must return home when borders reopen. Girl devastated. A decade later, she takes herself across the world to search for him in Cambodia. Girl finds Boy. Genocide everywhere. Tragedy, Trauma, Death, Loss, Grief, Violence, Injustice have changed him, though, irrevocably. Girl & Boy have a child. Child is stillborn. Boy is unable to stop himself from seeking revenge for the invaders who have taken away his entire family, town, and life. Serey ...more
Dec 14, 2009 Ben rated it liked it

The Disappeared disappoints

A review by Ben Antao

The reason I chose to buy and read The Disappeared, the 2009 Giller short-listed novel, is that I expected the author Kim Echlin, 54, would supply a few insights into the Cambodian war of the 70s and 80s. Instead, the story turns out to be a search for a Montreal woman’s lover, a Cambodian student with whom she falls in love at the age of 16. After Serey returns to Cambodia in the 80s to find his family, Anne Greve travels to Phnom Penh to find he
Oct 10, 2009 Imogen rated it it was amazing
This was amazing. Beautifully written, the novel follows a Canadian named Anne as she travels to Cambodia to find her lost lover after the genocide in Cambodia. While very hard-hitting, and as so many others have said, haunting, I could not put this book down. I grew very attached to Anne as she retold the story of her and her lover, Serey. I highly recommend this novel, it was an engaging love story, that also brought to light the horrendous slaughter of millions of people in Cambodia under the ...more
Jan 08, 2010 Claire rated it it was ok
A bit disappointing...thought it would be an interesting lens to look at the awful Khemer Rouge period in Cambodia but it ended up being more about the self-indulgent quest of a Canadian women to find her lover. What was most disturbing to me was that the main character did not seem to connect her plight with that of the hundreds of thousands in Cambodia who had lost loved ones...nor did the character remain connected/interested in the country and the plight of its people once she was finished w ...more
Jul 16, 2010 Louise added it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Louise by: Chapters
This was a beautiful story of the power of love, the grief and indecency of loss, and the strength and potency of the human spirit to keep going amid dangerous and perilous conditions.

Anne Greves is a sixteen-year-old living in Montreal, Canada when she meets Serey, a Cambodian who is 5 years older than she is and a musician. Immediately they begin a passionate, sexual relationship. One day Serey decides to return to Cambodia to find his family whom he hasn’t heard from in over a year. A daring
Oct 23, 2015 Selma rated it it was amazing
"Ako uspijemo da preživimo, moramo da govorimo ili će nam se duše pretvoriti u kamen."
Nisam mogla prestati čitati, morala sam završiti ovu priču jer da nisam bilo bi teže sutra je nastaviti. Ova knjiga puna osjećanja napisana je bez suvišnih riječi.
Radnja ovog romana odvija se za vrijeme genocida u Kambodži (1975-1979) u kome su stradala dva miliona ljudi, tokom vijetnamske okupacije.
Šesnaestogodišnja Kanađanka se zaljubljuje u studenta iz Kambodže. U revolucionarnom previranju vlasti zatvaraju
May 16, 2010 Ann rated it really liked it
Not your normal love story- this one has bite. A love affair begun in Montreal between a native and an exiled Cambodian. The time extends through Pol Pot genocide attrocities to the 'democratic' experiement after the killing fields. This book throws one from horror upon horror to blinding beauty of Lotus blossoms and much envied relationships in all their human diversity. The book is a prize winner. Read it all of you courageous lovers of the many faces of human life.
Feb 28, 2016 Krista rated it it was amazing
Shelves: can-con, war, 2016
Our disappeared were everywhere, irresistible, in waking, in sleeping, a reason for violence, a reason for forgiveness, destroying the peace we tried to possess, creeping between us as we dreamed, leaving us haunted by the knowledge that history is not redeemed by either peace or war but only fingered to shreds and left to our children.

The Disappeared is my very favourite type of book: it introduced me to a new time and place (I learned something) using language that I found to be spare and be
This love story spans decades but rather than being a story of the love between a man and a woman it is more a tale of a woman’s love for her man and his for his family and his country. The country in question is Cambodia and a great deal of the story takes place during the reign of the Khmer Rouge and the atrocities known as The Killing Fields.

The story begins when Anne Greves, a 16 year old Canadian schoolgirl who has recently lost her mother, falls in love with Serey, a 21 year old Cambodian
May 19, 2011 Stuart rated it really liked it
Shelves: canuckfic
I don't usually read these Canadian literary blockbusters, but something about this book attracted me: perhaps its brevity and the brevity of most of its chapters. And a couple years ago, when I checked myself into one of the hotel rooms at the Banff Centre for the Arts, my time there happened to coincide with a translation conference. One of the authors there was Kim Echlin, along with the English-to-Chinese translator of her novel The Disappeared. I checked out a panel on translation; I crashe ...more
Ugh - 78 chapters* of second-person narrative. The subject matter is endlessly fascinating to me, and the section of the book (the largest) set in Cambodia had me feeling like I was back in Phnom Penh with the sun on my shoulders BUT this was a chore to read. It's a shame really, as I think it could have been a very powerful story. For me, the style gave it a passive, almost dreamy, feel that left me not caring one little bit about the 2 main characters. Two words that sound quite similar are en ...more
Jul 04, 2010 Lorraine rated it it was amazing
What I learned from this book is that our North American life is so easy, peaceful, and full of rights. But there are countries, like Cambodia, which are so devasted by war that there is no such thing as wrong or right (like Sokha's choice to join the soldiers) and that survival is fickle.

This book is amazing. Short enough to read in an afternoon, but so powerful it will stay with you. Unique POV, in that it is is first person, past tense, with another character as the audience (eg I did this, t
Mar 28, 2009 Alexis rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
I hope this book gets more press as it was an exquisite read. I know it won't appeal to everyone, but I absolutely loved it. It's a very intimate story, told in first person. Most of it reads like poetry and is shared between the narrator and her lover, during their initial meeting in Montreal and then their reunion in Cambodia. The story deals with devastating aspects of the Cambodian genocide and political problems. The writing is sensual and rich, and the story is both poetic and sad.
Apr 02, 2012 Hannah rated it really liked it
This book was on the short (but not so sweet) side. I had no idea what to expect when I first started reading other than I thought it would be a stereotypical love story that would allow me to easily read between the lines. However, I was wrong and I’m okay with that. The book itself is extremely moving and it stays with you. I’ve been done reading it for about two weeks and I still think of some of its passages and situations on a regular basis. While reading the novel, I thought about how easy ...more
Oct 17, 2011 AliceinWonderland rated it it was ok
- The sparse prose of this book really killed it for me.
- I was looking forward to reading something moving & interesting, especially considering the heavy & heinous topic Echlin is trying to bring to light, but I barely had any empathy for the main character. As a reader, this ruins the reading experience.
- While I understand the intent behind so-called "sparse prose" from writers, I usually find I can't connect to this style. I know a lot of it is "read between the lines" and it's supp
Penguin Random House Canada
Oct 15, 2012 Penguin Random House Canada rated it it was amazing
Shelves: penguin-reviews
I read this book a few years ago and it is still on my mind. Kim Echlin writes with haunting prose that draws you deep into the emotional and physical pain of Anne and Serey. Echlin takes the pair across the world when Serey realizes he needs to find his family, and Anne realizes she can’t be without Serey any longer.
Anne and Serey might be the most compelling tale of love that I’ve ever read. I fell in love with them as they fell in love, and was heartbroken by their separation when Serey retu
Jul 19, 2014 Octavian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Octavian by: bookslover_roxana
Cambodia 1979 - 1993 had been tormented by the Khmer Rouge, the Vietnamese, the Government, Corruption- atrocities of war omnipresent.

This was the setting not only for a love story, but for the feelings that people have for their loved ones that keep disappear.

You almost feel that this could be a true story not a fiction.

"Why do some people live a comfortable life and others live one that is horror-filled? What part of ourselves do we shave off so we can keep on eating while others starve? If
Rebecca McNutt
Feb 17, 2016 Rebecca McNutt rated it really liked it
Moving away from the place you love to live and where you were born is never easy, but imagine coming all the way from Cambodia to Canada? These places have many differences, but for the characters in this book, they form a relationship in the province of Quebec, finding solace in each other despite the circumstances. The Disappeared is an excellent novel about what it is to be Canadian. Being Canadian isn't about where you're born or how much you know about Canada itself. Being Canadian is abou ...more
Monica Casper
Feb 23, 2010 Monica Casper rated it it was amazing
This book deeply unsettled me. I realized reading it that I knew so little about the situation in Cambodia. This heartbreaking story made me cry; not only is the narrative wrenching, but the language is simply gorgeous. Evocative yet brutal. Finding a lover's skull; losing a baby and burying her; the deaths of innocents. All of it is affecting me still. So much so that I've begun digging into the history of Cambodia and its traumas. Highly recommended novel, but know going in that it's not a pic ...more
May 30, 2013 Garry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I spent New Year's Eve last year in Phnom Penh. This photo is proof that I partied at the Heart of Darkness nightclub until some very wee hours (I'm the slightly sozzled dude third from the left).


Anyone who has been to Cambodia knows that it is a beautiful country, filled with beautiful people. It's easy to get lost in the dazzling entertainment precincts, the amazing temples, the beach resorts. But at the same time, it's not possible to forget that this is a country which has only barely surviv
I feel like if I keep handing out five star ratings like candy, people will stop taking me seriously, but geez, I have read some incredible books lately! Add Kim Echlin's The Disappeared to that list and get ready for another sobbing rave review.

This book is absolutely beautiful... The writing style is so unique and lyrical and (not to be repetitive) breathtakingly beautiful. The chapters are short and concise, sometimes only consisting of one punch-packing sentence. While the story flowed and
Samantha Lee
Dec 03, 2010 Samantha Lee rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I hardly know where to begin with this book. I found this the most deeply moving book I've read in a long time - I even have goosebumps thinking about it!

It's a beautiful story of love, loss and grief all set against the backdrop of the unbearable horrors of the Pol Pot regime. This is not my usual read but I was utterly captivated from start to finish. Although it only took me a day to read it is by no means light reading.

It tells the story of Anne, a 16 year old growing up in Montreal. She mee
Pam Rivera
Jul 30, 2010 Pam Rivera rated it it was amazing
Although this story takes place against the backdrop of the devastating Pol Pot genocide in Cambodia, it is not so much a social commentary on that dark era as it is a beautiful, haunting, tragic love story. It's a story of love and loss, reunion and separation, loyalty and betrayal, sacrifice, secrets and longing.

Narrated by Anne Greves, a 16 year old who falls in love with Serey, a Cambodian musician living in Montreal during the Pol Pot regime, it is written in essence as a love letter to Se
Oct 22, 2010 Cameron rated it liked it
Shelves: cambodia
Kim Echlin’s third novel is a powerful story of passion, longing and unresolved grief. Echlin has evolved a distinctive writing style, elegant, lyrical and highly evocative, but the story suffers from structural flaws that made it ultimately unsatisfying for me. The author researched Cambodian history thoroughly and the book derives much strength from details and anecdotes drawn from her readings. Her descriptions of Cambodia and the Khmer people are vivid and faithful, as is her portrayal of th ...more
Nov 04, 2012 Erin rated it it was amazing
It feels like something of a disservice to Echlin’s novel to lump it in here among five other books, because the novel is exceptional in every way. It’s epigraph reads “tell others,” and the whole novel urges readers to take seriously (for N.) their collective responsibility to read/hear the stories of others and to act whenever and wherever injustice is done. Far from heavy handed in this moral, the novel beautifully (really, really, I try not to overuse this word so that in the rare instances ...more
Initially I found the writing style difficult to read. But after a few chapters I got into the rhythm and ended up loving this book. It is a story that begs the age old question of is it truly better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. This is also a story of political upheaval, family drama, friendship and loyalty. Some of Echlin's passages are heartbreakingly beautiful to read.

Even though the story focuses on a small group of characters, I felt the story gave a true sense
May 05, 2011 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
If you're in the mood for a good cry, this is the book for you. "Seriously sad" are the words that come to mind when revisiting my reading of it. The title, of course, suggests the novel's tragic subject, but I admit I was unprepared for the unleavened nature of its depression-producing content. Which is not to say that there's anything wrong with a "downer" book. In fact, I believe that it's important to represent in non-fiction and fiction the sorrow and loss integral to life. But when there a ...more
Nov 11, 2013 Monique rated it really liked it
Canada 1979: Anne Greves is 16 when she falls in love with the Cambodian refugee Serey. They get a passionate relationship, which ends abruptly when the regime of the Khmer Rouge falls. Without saying a word, Serey leaves Anne and goes back to Cambodian hoping to finds his family. After 10 years Anne decides to go after Serey trying to find him and restore their relationship.

A very beautiful and heartbreaking story about a lost relationship and a country that never recovered from the Khmer Rouge
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Kim Echlin was born in Burlington, Ontario. After completing a doctoral thesis on Ojibway story-telling, she travelled in search of stories through the Marshall Islands, China, France, and Zimbabwe. On her return to Canada she became an arts documentary producer with CBC's The Journal, and a writer for various publications.

Her first novel, Elephant Winter, won the TORGI Talking Book of the Year A
More about Kim Echlin...

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“People do not really change; we are only undefeated because we have gone on trying.” 8 likes
“A soul protects itself from what it cannot bear.” 8 likes
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