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How We Disappeared

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4.23  ·  Rating details ·  239 ratings  ·  99 reviews
A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel set in Singapore about a woman who survived the Japanese occupation and a man who thought he had lost everything. For fans of Min Jin Lee's Pachinko and Georgia Hunter’s 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 ch
...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 2nd 2019 by Oneworld Publications (first published 2019)
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Fiona I was really confused by this and I can usually follow the plot.

I don't think we got to find out what happened to her baby - I think we were given…more
I was really confused by this and I can usually follow the plot.

I don't think we got to find out what happened to her baby - I think we were given three choices and we had to go with what we thought happened to him.(less)

Community Reviews

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4.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  239 ratings  ·  99 reviews


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Angela M
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

They were called “comfort women”, a soft description meant to make what was done by the Japanese soldiers to these young girls and women from Korea and this case Singapore, to make it sound less threatening, less horrific. But what they endured was horrific - the rapes and sexual abuse, slavery, locked in rooms, given little food. This is another story that’s difficult to read, but an important one as a theme of the novel reflects - the stories must be told. I didn’t really know anything about w
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Elyse Walters
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book cover is gorgeous.....
Yet the history was brutal.
The Japanese occupation in Singapore in WWII took place from 1942 to 1945.
The history often is forgotten - and some prefer it that way. Especially the Japanese government.
The Japanese Military was horrendous and shameless.
Most Americans are educated about Pearl Harbor - yet are less familiar with the horrors of what the Japanese military did - and to the extent that women suffered.

What really got to me was the ‘shame’ the women and
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Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
How We Disappeared has two timelines. The first is set during World War II, and the location is Singapore. Japanese troops have been marching through Malaysia. One village is almost completely wiped out; only three survive the attack.

In a nearby village, Wang Di is captured and sent to a Japanese military brothel where she is a “comfort woman.”

The second timeline is in the year 2000. Young Kevin’s grandmother is sick, and she confesses something to him. It causes him to seek the truth, whateve
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Meike
Jun 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-read, singapore
This sprawling epic talks about the Japanese occupation of Singapore during WW II and its repercussions which affect families until this day. I applaud Jing-Jing Lee for illustrating that history is never really over and how important it is to be able to tell one's own story in order to see oneself and to feel seen: To share and discuss what has happened in the past can free individual people, families and whole societies.

Jing-Jing Lee has woven a net of stories about a family that experiences
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Roman Clodia
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Who's going to listen?" I repeated. [...]
"Don't tell anyone. Not me or your father or any of the neighbours. Especially not your future husband."

An important book that is hard reading at times as we learn the story of one woman's life as a 'comfort woman' to the Japanese Army in Singapore during WW2.

I have to say that I found this uneven in places: I loved the heart of the book, Wang Di's cathartic narrative as she finally allows herself to tell the story of her captivity and experiences. B
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Tammy
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: release-2019
This beautiful heart-breaking debut is multi-narrated around two timelines and centers around Japan’s atrocities during their occupation of Singapore during WWll, and modern day when a 12yr old learns of his grandmother’s hidden secret.
Artfully crafted and utterly gripping.. this novel evokes the strong resilience women needed to survive during those horrific times. Has difficult subjects and is not for the faint at heart. 4 ☆
Laurie • The Baking Bookworm
Readers will immediately notice the beautiful cover of this Historical Fiction novel that looks at WWII from a different vantage point - the Japanese occupation of Singapore between 1942 and 1945.

The story has dual time lines and is told with two perspectives. Wang Di is a teenage girl from a small town who is abducted during the war and sold into sexual slavery to become a 'comfort woman' to the Japanese army. The second perspective is from Kevin, a 12-year-old boy who tries to piece together
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Thebooktrail
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Visit the locations in the novel


Singapore, 1942. As Japanese troops sweep down Malaysia and into Singapore, a village is ransacked, leaving only two survivors and one tiny child.

An emotional and heartbreaking read set during the Japanese occupation. It’s the story of a woman who survived the most horrific circumstances yet survived. Woven around this story is the tale of her husband and the horrors he also went through at the hands of the Japanese.

A heartbreaking and powerful read. Did I mentio
...more
Cora Tea Party Princess
Mar 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Review to come, but this book broke my heart over and over.
eyes.2c
Comfort women, one story!

I have read quite a few novels and attended at least one heart wrenching play over the past few years about Comfort Women. Basically women taken and forced to be sex slaves in brothels set up by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II to service their occupation troops. These women were treated as little more than animals. Their circumstances, their treatment and their violation was horrific. Disease and brutality with no quarter given marched hand in hand.
The pr
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Anya
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is with rights compared to Min Jin Lee's "Pachinko".
It's beautiful and heart-breaking at the same time. Our main characters go through so incredibly much abuse and sorrow and never really open up to each other what happened during the war and Japanese occupation.
I can recommend this to lovers of Min Jin Lee's novels or if you enjoyed the Night Tiger or the Geisha.
Jenna Bookish
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My thanks to Hanover Square Press and NetGalley for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the publisher. 



How We Disappeared is a beautiful, heartbreaking historical fiction novel with an element of mystery. There are several different story lines woven together with different point-of-view characters, but the strongest part of the novel while, also perhaps being the most difficult to read, was Wang Di's experience. Wang
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Becky
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
The real deal.

This book was unsurprisingly difficult to read, but worth it. My heart broke so much for Wang Di, and the real women on whom her character is based. The trauma she endures appears to me to be depicted faithfully in the novel, neither sanitized nor sensationalized, and the lasting impact of this time in her life courses through every page. Her relationship with her late husband, affectionately called The Old One, was a precious thing, and I loved and ached as she reminisced over the
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Fiona Mitchell
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A shattering, tender and absorbing novel that centres around the unfathomable cruelty that women in Singapore endured when they were snatched by the Japanese Army and forced into sexual slavery during World War Two. It was harrowing to read of Wang Di’s incarceration as a ‘comfort woman’ - far too benign a description for the barbarism that she and thousands of women endured across the occupied territories - yet what rings out from the book is human resilience and our capacity to love no matter ...more
Lorilin
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, fiction
Oh, good grief, prepare yourself for this one…

In 1942, Japanese soldiers ransack villages in Singapore, killing men, and kidnapping women and young girls so they can become sexual slaves. Wang Di is taken from her family when she’s only sixteen years old and, for the next three years, is forced to have sex with 40+ soldiers a day. Eventually she makes it out—but, of course, she can never forget.

Years later, a twelve-year old boy named Kevin is trying to figure out what happened to his grandmothe
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Stacie C
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
This is a story about family. It’s a story about war. It’s a story about surviving. A story about living after loss. It’s a story of healing and a story about the passing of time. It’s a story of teenage girl taken from her family during World War II and forced to live for years in a brothel as a comfort woman. It’s the story of a women married to a man for decades, who both suffering from the pains of war, never really knew each other or shared their past. It’s the story of a boy whose grandmot ...more
Runwright
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full review here https://wp.me/p4cJzL-3ZM
Jennifer (JC-S)
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
‘He knew what the unsaid did to people. Ate away at them from the inside.’

Singapore, 1942. The Japanese troops sweep all before them as they move through Malaysia and into Singapore. In one village, only two people and a tiny child survive. In a nearby village, seventeen-year-old Wang Di is taken from her village to a Japanese military brothel, where she is forced into sexual slavery. Wang Di becomes one of the ‘comfort women’.

Later, Wang Di marries. Her husband, affectionately known as ‘The Ol
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Anna Baillie-Karas
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful, moving novel, set in Singapore. The story of Wang Di, a sex slave during WW2, and Kevin, who is is solving a mystery about his grandmother. I loved the clean writing - the images are so clear, characters finely drawn. Shows the plight of ‘comfort women’ and the long-lasting effects of WW2 traumas. It’s well-paced: there’s action and suspense, but Lee gives her characters room to breathe. They’re outsiders but resilient; they break your heart.

It also raises the question of silence a
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Ming
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I find it difficult to write about this book. A jumble of powerful feelings rises up. The story itself is wrenching and the sections depicting the girl’s experiences as a sex slave to Japanese soldiers during WWII are particularly harrowing.

However and importantly, the beauty of the writing and its intimate tone/”feel” make the reading all the more affecting and haunting. I felt as if I almost became her, especially during the most traumatic periods. I saw through her eyes. Other times, she was
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Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

As I started to read How We Disappeared, I felt that it was fortuitously connected to my last Asian novel, The Garden of Evening Mists. That post-war Malaysian story included passing references to the ianfu (comfort women) and How We Disappeared is a fictionalised, but well researched, account from one such woman, Wang Di. To be honest, this is a horrific story. Not the novel itself, of course. Lee's delicate yet powerful prose style is perfe
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Aisha
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing


I think Jing-Jing Lee made a brave decision to tell the stories of ethnic Chinese who lived in Singapore during the Japanese occupation,with a large focus on ‘comfort women’. How We Disappeared broke my heart, I won’t lie.

Unlike a number of heartbreaking books I’ve read this year, its blurb laid out, briefly, what I was getting into but even that wasn’t enough to stop the triggers 😭. I think the fact that I never knew it really happened contributed to it. So if you’re easily triggered, by any fo
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Jacqie
May 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didnt-finish
This story had a lot of familiar story beats. It also had 2 point of view characters. And it went back and forth between WWII and more or less today. So, all of those things are not uncommon. The book failed to set itself apart for me.

The First viewpoint is that of Wang Di. At the start of the book, she is mourning her dead husband, who wanted to know her past but was patient with her when she didn't want to talk. Now he's dead, and she's sorry she didn't share more. So you know the book is goin
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Ahaaha4
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book will tug at your heart, it will be difficult to read, your heart will actually break, but you will continue until the end because it is so important to read about how people have been treated throughout history. How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee will be released May 7th, make sure to put it on your to be read list. How We Disappeared takes place during 1942-1945 when the Japanese invade Singapore. It is about how the Japanese took in comfort women and the torture and abuse one partic ...more
Julia Tutt
May 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: library-book
This was a great story that just wasn't executed well. It's 3 stars for the story and characters, but it lost two stars due to it's inability to really land those two things perfectly. The ending wasn't satisfactory, the hints weren't clear, and it just didn't hit home.
The Lit Bitch
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

I haven’t read a ton of Asian literature but I was eager to read this one because of one thing—the time period. My venture into Asian literature has come down to two books, Memoirs of a Geisha and Snowflower and the Secret Fan…..that is it. So when I agreed to read this book, I had no idea what I was going to get.

I remember reading Memoirs of a Geisha and Snowflower and the Secret Fan and loving both of those. Especially Memoirs of a Geisha, mostly because it was set during WWII and th
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Janet
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the publisher, as I do not regurgitate the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it.

A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel set in World War II Singapore about a woman who survived the Japanese occupation and a man who thought he had lost everything—for fans of Pachinko and We Were the Lucky Ones

Singapore, 1942. As Japanese troops sweep down Malaysia and into Singapore, a
...more
L A
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to Oneworld Publications and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

What a book. It has been a long while since I felt myself so emotionally affected after reading a book. I started and finished this book almost in one sitting and was utterly gripped by the story.

The main character of this book is Wang Di, an elderly woman who lived through the Japanese occupation of Singapore during World War II. The story flashbacks to her experiences during this time, as
...more
Sue
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii
I have read many books about the effects of WWII on the people of Europe but this is the first book that I've read about life in Singapore during the occupation by the Japanese. Parts of this book were difficult to read but the novel is beautifully written and a wonderful testament to the women who survived this time period. It is a book that I won't soon forget.

This novel is told in 2 time periods. The first time period in 1942 when 16 year old Wang Di is taken from her home and family and sent
...more
Ahaaha4
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book will tug at your heart, it will be difficult to read, your heart will actually break, but you will continue until the end because it is so important to read about how people have been treated throughout history. How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee will be released May 7th, make sure to put it on your to be read list. How We Disappeared takes place during 1942-1945 when the Japanese invade Singapore. It is about how the Japanese took in comfort women and the torture and abuse one partic ...more
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Jing-Jing Lee is the author of HOW WE DISAPPEARED (Oneworld and Hanover Square Press, May 2019). Born and raised in Singapore, she graduated from Oxford’s Creative Writing Master’s in 2011 and has since seen her poetry and short stories published in various journals and anthologies. Lee's novella, If I Could Tell You, was published by Marshall Cavendish in 2013 and her debut poetry collection, And ...more