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The Disappeared

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  3,098 ratings  ·  461 reviews
A fiercely beautiful love story for the ages, The Disappeared traces one woman's three-decades-long journey from the peaceful streets of Montreal to the war-torn villages of Cambodia, as a brief affair turns into a grand passion of loss and remembrance, set against one of the most brutal genocides of our time. When sixteen-year-old Anne Greves first meets Serey, a Cambodia ...more
Paperback, 235 pages
Published December 29th 2009 by Grove Press, Black Cat (first published 2009)
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3.72  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,098 ratings  ·  461 reviews


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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
...more
Vonia
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
☕Laura
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.
❤️
Apr 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: canadiana
The Disappeared is a heartbreaking tale told through some of the most lyrical prose I've encountered in literature. Very fitting, considering one of the strongest personality traits of the two main characters is their shared love of music.

The flow of Kim Echlin's words, however, is interrupted frequently by one particular style choice that always bothers me whenever I encounter it - not using quotation marks during dialogue. In this particular instance, I found this choice to be especially bothe
...more
Krista
Feb 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, 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
...more
Ben
Dec 14, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
...more
Imogen
Oct 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Claire
Jan 08, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Ann
May 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Louise
Jul 16, 2010 added it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Sandie
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
...more
Andrea
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
Jennifer G
I enjoyed this book about a girl who, as a 16 year old child, falls in love with a Cambodian student who is studying in Canada. This part of the book takes place in the 70s during the Cambodian war. After her lover goes back to Cambodia to find out what happened to his family, she doesn't hear from him again. 10 years or so down the road, she decides to visit Cambodia to look for him.

I found the book to be interesting as it details some of the horrors of the Cambodian war. I also found the writi
...more
Garry
May 30, 2013 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).

description

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
...more
Cari
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
...more
Stuart
May 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Penguin Random House Canada
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
...more
Octavian
Jul 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Rebecca McNutt
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Lorraine
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
...more
Susan
Dec 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was gripped by this haunting story and could not put it down. The prose is evocative and lyrical, drawing the reader into the love of a Canadian woman for a Cambodian man who slips in and out of her life. It is a tragic love, one of inevitable loss and, though this was foreshadowed early on, still it was shocking and unbelievable, as is all death, and it actually brought tears to my eyes. I liked the short chapters, some like poems in themselves, and the absence of quotation marks. A beautiful ...more
Alexis
Mar 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Natasha
Overall, i enjoyed the story in this book.
I found the love story to be heartbreaking.
The details of what happened in wartime were eye opening and sickening.
As sad as both of those parts of the story were, I still enjoyed reading them.
The part I didn’t like as much was his this book was written. The writing style is different and interesting but it list my focus more than it attracted it.
Andrew
Jan 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really good fiction allows the reader to explore worlds they may will never visit and periods of history that are hard to imagine. By creating well drawn characters and situations I find I am often immersed in those experiences. The story of Cambodia following the American evacuation from Saigon in 1975 is traumatic and the horrors of the Khmer rouge unimaginable so this book which is at heart a love story allowed me to understand to a degree the devastation caused by civil war to a sophisticate ...more
AliceinWonderland
- 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
...more
Hannah
Apr 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Samantha Lee
Dec 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Pam Rivera
Jul 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Cameron
Oct 22, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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“A soul protects itself from what it cannot bear.” 9 likes
“People do not really change; we are only undefeated because we have gone on trying.” 8 likes
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