First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.

Singapore, 1942. As Japanese troops sweep down Malaysia and into Singapore, a village is ransacked. Only three survivors remain, one of them a tiny child.

In a neighboring village, seventeen-year-old Wang Di is bundled into the back of a troop carrier and shipped off to a Japanese military brothel. In the year 2000, her mind is still haunted by her experiences there, but she has long been silent about her memories of that time. It takes twelve-year-old Kevin, and the mumbled confession he overhears from his ailing grandmother, to set in motion in a journey into the unknown to discover the truth.

Weaving together two timelines and two life-changing secrets, How We Disappeared is an evocative, profoundly moving and utterly dazzling novel heralding the arrival of a thrilling new literary star.

Today marks the start of a new year. Happy New Year everyone! To my Korean friends, happy birthday! After a very eventful and uncertain 2020, everyone is brimming with hope, fervently looking forward to what the new year has in store. Just like everyone, I am also filled with hope that everything would be better this year. But even though we are all eager to move on from 2020, I hope that we don’t forget the lessons that we have learned in the challenging year that has recently drawn to a close. May we all use these lessons wisely not just in 2021 but in the coming years.

As the new year falls on a Friday, it is time for my first First Impression Friday post for the year. For this week’s update, I am featuring Jing-Jing Lee’s How We Disappeared, which is also my first read for the year (obviously). Honestly, reading nor buying the book never crossed my mind had not a fellow book blogger, Hannah Celeste @ Books and Bakes, recommended the book to me in her Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 discussion.

I was supposed to read it as my closing for 2020 but my curiosity and interest in Jessica Jung’s debut novel was simply overwhelming. I think it was a good trade off for How We Disappeared is my opening book for 2021. Long-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020, the novel follows the story of a cast of characters in past and contemporary Singapore and Malaysia.

The story alternates from the past and the present. Lee has vividly painted the picture of the tumult the Second World War has caused in South East Asia, particularly Singapore and Malaysia where most of the story was set. Yes, I am reading yet another Second World War inspired novel. But as I have realized previously, a story might sound familiar or trite but each voice deserves to be heard. I am also happy that I am starting my 2021 reading journey with a book set in my region of the world; I hope that bodes well for the rest of the year.

I haven’t made it far yet in the story but I recognize that Wang Di is the primary character. I don’t know much yet of her story but the book’s synopsis has given me an iota on what her story is going to be. If my hunch is right, then it would be story that she shares with many female voices of the region. Nonetheless, I am excited as her story unravels. I am now mentally preparing myself for what (I assume) would be strongly graphic and violent scenes. I am also interested to know how Wang Di’s story resonates in the present; I can feel that the present is linked to the past.

I am hoping to finish the book soon but the first week of the year is usually hectic and frenzied for accountants like me. Year-end financial closing is waving. On top of that, I am doing my 2020 wrap up posts as well. Still, I hope to complete the book this weekend. How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to and I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe, and happy weekend! Again, happy new year!