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The Disappeared Paperback – Deckle Edge, December 29, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Canadian novelist Echlin (Elephant Winter) derives a powerful, transcendent love story from the Cambodian genocide. Anne Greves, a motherless 16-year-old student, meets a Cambodian refugee, Serey, working as a math instructor amid the heady music scene of late-1970s Montreal, and they fall irredeemably in love. Serey's family got him out of Pol Pot's Cambodia, although he is waiting to be able to return and find them; Anne's father, a successful engineer of prosthetics, does not approve of Anne's exotic, older boyfriend, and when, as her father predicted, Serey leaves her, disappearing for 11 years, Anne journeys to Phnom Penh to find him. There she comes face to face with the terrible fallout of the collapsed Khmer Rouge dictatorship. The beautifully spare narrative is daringly imaginative in the details, drawing the reader deep inside the wounded capital city. Anne's single-mindedness drives the action, although her insistence on Western values of accountability knocks hollowly against the machinery of a ruthless military state. Echlin employs some implausible romance plotting and spoils the suspense early on, yet she creates a sorrowfully compelling world. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

“Why did you never answer my letters?” “What letters?” Who was censoring whom? Was it the dictatorship in Cambodia, where Serey lived? Or was it the protective father of Anne, 16, in Canada, who did not want her dating a dangerous stranger? The young people fall passionately in love when, in exile from the cruel Khmer Rouge, he plays in a rock band in Montreal. Then he goes back to Cambodia, and after years of waiting, she travels to find him in his country. Now, 30 year later, she speaks to him in her head as she remembers their passionate love, in Montreal and then in Cambodia, the baby she lost, and their parting when she returned to Canada. The dramatic blend of erotic bliss, physical horror, and enduring political issues will draw readers into her anguished conflict about love, guilt, forgiveness, and revenge. As she sees land-mine victims, without limbs or face, and wanders the killing fields where tourists now gather, she ponders the role of those who do nothing, including the indifferent. Is silence a crime? --Hazel Rochman
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat (December 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802170668
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802170668
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,136,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
At heart a love story, The Disappeared is as well a paean to the Cambodian genocide (1975-79), in which two million people died, through the Vietnamese occupation (1979-89) and the United Nations Transitional Authority leading to a democratic election in 1993. The sad and tragic history of the Cambodian people is the backdrop of this novel, viewed through the lens of the love of a teenaged girl for a Cambodian musician a few years older that she first meets in her native Montreal. Anne Greaves is headstrong and motherless, resenting her father's vague attempts to control her once she has fallen hopelessly in love with the long-haired Serey with his magical fingers and beautiful face. Serey plays the music of the Khmer, exotic, thrilling, when paired with the more modern tunes of the seventies.

When the borders of Cambodia reopen for a short time, Serey must return to locate his family and the lovers are parted. Distraught, Anne waits for word, but hears nothing. After six years, convinced she has seen him on a television newsreel of Cambodia, Anne steps out of her life in Montreal and takes a flight to Phnom Penh, where she uses her facility with the Khmer language to begin her search. Both tragic and beautiful, this book is filled with the language of love and loss, the meeting of true soul mates and the damage of genocide on an entire population of innocents. Following her destiny, Anne never falters, as sure in her love for Serey as the first night she hears him play in the Montreal nightclub. Echlin embraces Cambodia with an open heart, witness to the beauty, ritual, tradition and tragedy of a place caught in the juggernaut of history. Reunited, the lovers refuse to be parted, even in death.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A. Reader on April 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
The Disappeared" is a different kind of book than what I would normally select for myself. Now that I am finished reading the story, I'm uncertain if I'm pleased or disappointed for stepping out of my comfort zone. Set during the Cambodian genocide in the 1970's, "The Disappeared" follows the lives of two lovers-- Anne, a Canadian, and Serey, a Cambodian student.

There are a few things that I found off-putting about the novel. First of all, the author writes in a series of first person recollections. I found the flow of thoughts to read in a disjointed manner. I think this writing mechanism was supposed to represent the fragmentation of memories (and it did), but it also seemed melodramatic. Second of all, some phrases and conversations occured partially in untranslated French, and because of this I felt like I might be missing details in the story. But really, what bothered me the most was the portrayal of Anne and Serey's "love." I found myself wondering if what they had together could truly be defined as love. There was never a sense of the characters drawing strength or courage from each other. Anne makes sacrifices for Serey, but does he ever truly reciprocate? It seemed like their "love" made them secretive, anguished, reckless and even a bit self destructive. That is certainly not the kind of love that I aspire to.

Regardless, "The Disappeared" is a lovely story of survival, loss, sorrow and friendship. It paints a stark and honest picture of Cambodia and the struggles of its people. The secondary characters are intriguing and in many cases, more interesting than the primary characters. I thought "The Disappeared" was a good book, and a worthwhile read. But I don't recommend you place it at the top of your book list.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Figmentspot on September 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is not even so much about the story, which in itself is stunning, beautiful, harrowing; it's about language. It's about poetry. In this it reminds me much of Jeanette Winterson. Some moments:

I needed memory and hope and since I could find them nowhere else, I looked for them in the declension of verbs. Words swallowed me like a deep river.

I hear a voice cry out anguish. If this is a man? Human music turned into a note of music, the rhythm of a sentence. Men have invented a word for this. They call it sublime.

The Khmer Rouge used words to kill the people.

I think I began to read this way, studying the words in an open book, waiting for absence to be filled.

I was spellbound by "The Disappeared." Read it like a crazy person. Have ordered Echlin's other work. Breathtaking.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Romantic Cambodian on February 11, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love this book very much. It is a kind of a very romantic love struggle between a Cambodian intellectual with a Canadian foreign student, before, during, and after the cruel regime of Khmer Rouge in which all Cambodian people suffered from in one way or another.

The author describes her love story very well in the book. She also relates very well about her personal life to the fact and social difficulties happening in Cambodia. I mostly agree with what the author mentions in the book.

I personally believe that if spirit does exist, the story of his wife's loving struggle in Cambodia would be heard and appreciated by the dead soul - her husband.

I would recommend this book to others, especially the lovers or couples between Cambodian people and other foreign nationalities.
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