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The Storm We Made
Cover of The Storm We Made
The Storm We Made
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
NATIONAL BESTSELLER

A GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK

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.
NATIONAL BESTSELLER

A GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK

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.
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About the Author-
  • Vanessa Chan is the Malaysian author of The Storm We Made, a national bestseller, Good Morning America Book Club Pick and BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick. Acquired by international publishers in a flurry of auctions, the novel, her first, will be published in more than twenty languages worldwide. Her other work has been published in Vogue, Esquire, and more. Vanessa grew up in Malaysia and is now based mostly in Brooklyn.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    August 1, 2023

    In 1930s British-colonized Malaya, frustrated housewife Cecily Alcantara has a chance encounter with General Fujiwara and is persuaded to support what he calls the dream of Asia for Asians by spying for the Japanese. By 1945, with her son vanished, her younger daughter hidden in the basement, and her older daughter furious about the drunken Japanese soldiers she serves at the teahouse, Cecily recognizes that she made a dreadful choice. A frequently published short story writer goes longform. Prepub Alert.

    Copyright 2023 Library Journal

    Copyright 2023 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 2, 2023
    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.

  • Kirkus

    October 15, 2023
    In World War II Malaysia, a woman discovers her pre-war miscalculations have ruined her life. In twinned story streams beginning in the mid-1940s and 10 years earlier, Chan traces the experience of the Alcantara family: Gordon, Cecily, and their three children, Jujube, Abel, and Jasmin. The opening section is set in Japanese-occupied Malaya (as Malaysia was then called) in 1945, where "teenage boys had begun to disappear." On his 15th birthday their beloved Abel is among them. Cecily's first reaction? "For a few minutes before the guilt took hold of her, it was a relief to see her terror realized. It had finally come to pass, and this was all her fault. She had caused this, all of it." The flashbacks that begin in the next chapter unfold her heart-wrenching story. Through her husband's position with the British occupation, Cecily comes in contact with a man of two names. On the surface, he is Bingley Chan, a Hong Kong merchant. He begins a friendship with the Alcantaras, coming to their house to visit. Gordon is thrilled by his attention and has no idea that every night after he passes out, Chan, actually General Fujiwara of the Japanese Imperial Army, is working to become his wife's lover and spymaster, telling her she is helping build "an Asia for Asians." As this background develops in the flashback sections, the horrors of 1945 unfold in parallel: Abel's unspeakable torment in the labor camp, the perils of Jujube and even little Jasmin due to the abduction of girls to "comfort stations," the almost unthinkable miseries of Cecily, who cannot free herself from her sexual obsession with Fujiwara even after he's abandoned her and her life is in ruins. The ultimate cost of her shortsightedness and self-delusion is excruciating, to the point that finishing the book is like waking up from a nightmare with relief that it didn't really happen. A chilling exploration of the costs of human weakness and desire, in a compelling and vividly wrought historical context.

    COPYRIGHT(2023) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    November 1, 2023
    The lofty incentive is "Asia for Asians, a world in which white men didn't always win." The century-and-a-half of British occupation of Malaya (now Malaysia) is about to be interrupted by the invading Japanese, who will become savage, decimating masters until their defeat at the end of WWII. But before that, Malayan wife and mother Cecily believes the charismatic General Fujiwara's promises of racial autonomy and decides to become a spy, convincing herself that she's enabling a freer future. Ten years later, in 1945, Cecily's family implodes--retribution, she knows, for her prior actions. Malaysian-born, Brooklyn-based novelist Chan's debut is an intricate puzzle in which she deftly moves narrative pieces in time and among viewpoints. Cecily's colluding confessions are intertwined with her children's experiences under Japanese rule. Her son disappears. Her younger daughter is hidden to save her from sexual enslavement. Her older daughter perilously serves drunken soldiers in a tea house. Chan's author's note reveals that because her grandparents and other survivors "do not speak about their lives from 1941-1945" under Japanese rule, Chan resurrects and shares their missing stories.

    COPYRIGHT(2023) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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A Novel
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