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In Japanese-occupied Malaya, lives are shattered and a woman discovers her inner strength in a world ravaged by war.
Following the death of their matriarch, the lives of Chye Hoon’s family are turned upside down. Now that the British have fled and the Japanese have conquered, their once-benign world changes overnight.
Amid the turmoil, Chye Hoon’s daughter-in-law, Mei Foong, must fend for her family as her husband, Weng Yu, becomes increasingly embittered. Challenged in ways she never could have imagined and forced into hiding, Mei Foong finds a deep reservoir of resilience she did not know she had and soon draws the attentions of another man.
Is Mei Foong’s resolve enough to save herself, her marriage, and her family? Only when peace returns to Malaya will she learn the full price she must pay for survival.
About the Author
Selina Siak Chin Yoke is the author of The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds, her first book in the Malayan Series. Of Malaysian Chinese heritage, she grew up listening to family stories and ancient legends, always knowing that one day she would write. After an eclectic life as a theoretical physicist, investment banker, and trader in London, the heavens intervened. In 2009, Chin Yoke was diagnosed with cancer, the second major illness she had to battle. While recovering, she decided not to delay her dream of writing any longer. She is currently working on her third book and also writes a blog about Malaysia at www.siakchinyoke.com/blog.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
After enjoying Selina Siak Chin Yoke’s debut novel, The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds, I was eager to read the sequel. What makes this author’s writing so fascinating to me, is her ability to transport me into her story. In this book, I felt as if I lived through the horrific period of time, when Malaya, was under Japanese control during WWII. The only thing I found difficult, was keeping track of the characters. Once I had the names straight in my mind, though, I couldn’t put the book down. The story is narrated by a strong, likable character, Wong Mei Foong. When Mei Foong met her husband to be, Wong Weng Yu, she quickly fell in love with him. His quiet, sensitive nature, his love for music, and his deep singing voice captured Mei Foong’s, heart. She didn’t realize then, though, that Weng Yu was also in love with himself, and her father’s money. Weng Yu was a British-educated engineer and very handsome. On paper, Weng Yu was the perfect husband. But, in reality, he either ignored Mei Foong or treated her with contempt. When another man showed kindness to Mei Foong during a painful period in her life, Weng Yu became furious. Unfortunately, it was Mei Foong who would end up paying the price for that kindness. The book depicts just how the Malayan people were oppressed under Japanese rule. The authentic, Malayan culture details and dialect made this book come alive for me. Thank you, Amazon Crossings and NetGalley for my advanced review copy.
"The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds" followed the life of Chye Hoon, a strong-willed Nyonya girl who becomes the matriarch of her mixed-heritage family in early 20th-century Malaysia. "When the Future Comes Too Soon" picks up shortly after where "The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds" left off, with the death of Chye Hoon. Now the family's story is narrated by Mei Foong, Chye Hoon's refined, upper-class Chinese daughter-in-law, who married Chye's oldest son, Weng Yu, the one who held such promise but has turned out to be something more like a failure, or at least, utterly unsuited for the life he has been forced to live. Now it is up to Mei Foong to preserve the family during the WWII Japanese occupation. Although "When the Future Comes Too Soon" is an immediate sequel to "The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds," it is not a copy of it. Mei Foong has a very different narrative voice than Chye Hoon, and their circumstances are utterly different as well. While Chye Hoon was a rebellious girl who learned to appreciate her native culture, which was rich, unique, and slowly disappearing, and who become a successful entrepreneur and an imposing matriarch following the death of her husband, Mei Foong was a delicately beautiful highborn Chinese maiden who was brought into the family as much as a status symbol as anything else. Chye Hoon's story was one of a woman trying to present the beauties of her culture to others, and was comparatively slow-moving, full of the scents and sights of turn-of-the-century Malaysia, as Chye described her Nyonya cooking and her attempts to peddle kueh cakes. Mei Foong's story is sparer and faster-paced, jumping in immediately into the action of the first Japanese bombardment of the island, and following the family's scramble to find each other, flee to the countryside, return back to the city, and figure out how to live under material privation and Japanese occupation. While both books are at their heart tales of survival, physical and cultural, the survival is of a different nature in each. Mei Foong's struggles to keep her family alive and together are riveting, as she deals with impoverishment and physical danger while taking care of an unreliable husband, an aging father, and multiple small children. Her struggles to understand her culture and her stance towards it, though, are perhaps more important in a deeper sense. As a Malaysian-born Chinese woman, educated in both Chinese and British culture, she, like her husband, is torn between her heritage and her education. She speaks English and admires many of the advances the British brought Malaysia, including things like modern medicine and the education of women to work outside the home. At the same time, she, like many, is horrified when the British abandon Malaysia and its people at the first sign of Japanese attack. And although the Japanese can be harsh masters, they also work to foster pan-Asian feelings and make a point of putting Asians in positions of authority, something the British would never have even considered. The Malaysian characters finding themselves occupied and subjugated once again, and have to ask themselves: is one master really any better than the other? Do the benefits of British civilization outweigh its racism? These are heavy questions, but they don't weigh down the story: the main focus is always Mei Foong's feelings, her family, her marriage, and her growing attraction to another man.