Author, Kim Echlin, spoke about her book, The Disappeared, at an author reading sponsored by Blue Heron Books at Wyndance Golf and Country Club. I reviewed Echlin’s book for The Writers’ Community of Durham Region website category: Reading as Writers, Fiction. The book was short listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in Canada.
I can’t stop thinking about Echlin’s story. She writes about events that happened in Canada and Cambodia during the time of my youth, the Sixties, when I should have been better informed about Cambodia’s reign of terror – but wasn’t.
Told first through the experiences of a 16-year old girl in Montreal, the author confronts the reader with the sensual details of blind love – love that flies in the face of convention, love that cares nothing for the cultural differences of two lovers, or the geography that separates them. The author, through an effective economy of language, captivates the reader with images of Montreal’s smoky jazz clubs, tawdry rooming houses and precious moments of sharing between disparate characters.
But it is the eventual rediscovery of the couple many years later in Cambodia that sinks its teeth into your skin. The author layers political complexities in a post Pol Pot regime with the woman’s tenacious personal journey, demanding the reader to recognize the realities of survival after international newspapers abandoned the story of Cambodian genocide.
Echlin introduces us to heart warming characters that journey with this devoted woman in her exploration of the home of her lost lover, realistic and believable. It is no surprise that this fascinating book was short listed for the Giller Prize in fiction.
We could survive a whole weekend on five dollars. There was always a bag of rice and we brought home fresh fish from Chinatown and fifty cents’ worth of greens and a couple of oranges. We knew a café on Crescent Street where we could sit the whole afternoon with one coffee and we got into L’air du temps through the back entrance. Sometimes we walked up the mountain and threw snowballs over Beaver Lake and when our fingertips began to freeze we went into the churches. I like St. Joseph’s oratory best, its gloom and incense and hidden stairways.