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In this spellbinding novel, an ordinary housewife becomes an unlikely spy—and her dark secrets will test even the most unbreakable ties.
Malaya, 1945. Cecily Alcantara’s family is in terrible danger: her fifteen-year-old son, Abel, has disappeared, and her youngest daughter, Jasmin, is confined in a basement to prevent being pressed into service at the comfort stations. Her eldest daughter Jujube, who works at a tea house frequented by drunk Japanese soldiers, becomes angrier by the day.
Cecily knows two things: that this is all her fault; and that her family must never learn the truth.
A decade prior, Cecily had been desperate to be more than a housewife to a low-level bureaucrat in British-colonized Malaya. A chance meeting with the charismatic General Fujiwara lured her into a life of espionage, pursuing dreams of an “Asia for Asians.” Instead, Cecily helped usher in an even more brutal occupation by the Japanese. Ten years later as the war reaches its apex, her actions have caught up with her. Now her family is on the brink of destruction—and she will do anything to save them.
Spanning years of pain and triumph, told from the perspectives of four unforgettable characters, The Storm We Made is a dazzling saga about the horrors of war; the fraught relationships between the colonized and their oppressors, and the ambiguity of right and wrong when survival is at stake.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Painful and beautiful, The Storm We Made is one of those novels that swallows you whole. Set before and during the Japanese occupation of Malaya in World War II, the story revolves around the Alcantara family, whose lives are ripped apart piece by piece. Vanessa Chan’s debut novel is a staggering work of historical fiction, pulling us into a fraught, dangerous time and place that’s not often written about—and making us deeply invested in the fates of her characters, especially deeply flawed matriarch Cecily, whose infidelity and deceptions fuel the plot. This is a suspenseful read about guilt, family bonds, and the brutality of war.
Chan debuts with a dynamic if overstuffed family saga involving a Malayan mother who becomes a spy for Japan in the lead-up to Japan's WWII invasion of the territory. Cecily Alcantara's life takes a new course in 1934, at a work party for her husband, Gordon, a middle manager for the colonial British administration. There, she meets the charming Shigeru Fujiwara, an agent for the Japanese Imperial Army who's working covertly to overthrow the British. He lures Cecily with his talk of an Asia for Asians, and she begins handing over information stolen from Gordon's desk. Her espionage activities continue for the next few years. Now, in 1945, Cecily looks back on the unexpected consequences of the Japanese invasion, such as political repression and rampant disappearances of teen boys. When her 15-year-old son Abel disappears, Cecily blames herself. Chan alternates Cecily's story with chapters narrated by her children including Abel, who it turns out is being tortured in a labor camp. There's also Jujube, who's working in a teahouse patronized by rude soldiers, and eight-year-old Jasmin, who chafes at Cecily and Gordon's insistence that she keep herself hidden in the basement so she won't be caught and forced to become a "comfort girl." Though the short chapters make for brisk pacing, the characters wind up feeling underdeveloped amid all the various plot threads. Still, Chan convincingly portrays a family caught in the horrors of war.
A haunting story
This book was difficult to read at times but absolutely worth it. Very well written
Not worth it
The story had potential to be good but never quite got there.