Phew, what a crazy week! Thankfully I had this little gem by Selina Siak Chin Yoke to help get me through it. Emotional and evocative When the Future Comes too Soon is a beautiful read, but not one that you can rush through. This is the perfect book for lovers of richly detailed and character driven pieces, and of course for those who just can’t get enough WWII fiction from around the world.
Title: When the Future Comes too Soon
Author: Selina Siak Chin Yoke
Series: The Malaysian Series, Book 2
Publication Date: July 18, 2017
Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Themes: WWII, Survival, Malaysia, Japanese Occupation, Family
My Rating: 4/ 5
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 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.
I loved this book, a lot. With an incredibly strong female protagonist, sympathetic and believable characters, an abundance of historical details, and complete immersion into the cultural melting pot of 1940s Malaysia it ticked all of the boxes that I normally look for. My only complaint is that even those big events that could have held some driving action were still focused almost entirely on Mei Foong and not the action. But, with that being said When the Future Comes too Soon has this wonderful slow-burn effect where the minutiae suck you in and it becomes impossible to look away.
Like Mei Foong, my dislike of her husband grew over time. I was initially sympathetic given the circumstances of the bombing, and then the occupation Ipoh, but he only got worse with time… Argh! If ever there was a character I wanted to reach through the pages and strangle it was Weng Yu. Well done Selina, I know it’s a good book when a character makes me angry. And despite the fact that I really didn’t like Weng Yu he does an amazing job exploring the clashes that can occur when ones deeply held cultural values don’t truly align with the face being presented to the world.
Mei Foong’s resourcefulness and dedication to her family never ceased to astound me. She was the perfect reminder of the difficulty and choices that faced those who survived, and thrived, during these times. I can only imagine what people sold their precious jewels and heirlooms for, how many beautiful gardens were turned into vegetable beds, and how everyone simply learned to do more with less. What I loved most about Men Foong was that even though she was capable of recognizing how events and choices had influenced her circumstances, she did not dwell on the past or waste time blaming people for things that could not be changed. Her resilience and adaptability was astounding, as was her practicality despite her wealthy upbringing.
Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. But it comes with the warning that it should be savoured as rushing through and skipping ahead runs the risk overlooking essential elements and the attention to detail. You should also steel your nerves for some gut wrenching moments, keep your tissues close at hand, and keep you inner feminist on call for this exquisite exploration of self discovery and empowerment.
Many thanks to Selina Siak Chin Yoke and AmazonCrossing for providing an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.