It is surely a brave book that would set a love story near the killing fields of Pol Pot.
Canadian author Kim Echlin does this in her most recent book “The Disappeared” – even though the love story does start in Montreal and gives a haunting picture of the apartments, and bars and downtown dives of the east end of that city.
Echlin had travelled in Cambodia with a medical research team doing inoculations for children. She saw the memorials to those lost under the Khmer Rouge, 30 years earlier when 2 million died, many buried in the Killing Fields of Pol Pot.
Her book is an intense contrast between deep love, and hatred. A Montreal girl meets a Cambodian musician, sent to Canada by his family to escape the slaughter in Cambodia. She lives with him and falls deeply and forever in love. Her life is shattered when he disappears, back to Cambodia, where he was drawn to look up his own family. Ten years go by, without word, and she sets off to find him. The story is convincing – but harrowing. She learns the language and does find her lover. There are touching and terrifying descriptions of life in Cambodia where her true love cannot really tell her what he is doing. She follows him to his death and the book shares her feelings after that, when she returns to Montreal.
Echlin writes in a spare prose and the book has been called a battle cry and a piercing lament for truth, for love. She lives in Toronto, and has written four other books including: “Elizabeth Smart: A Fugue Essay on Women and Creativity”.
Review by Anne McDougall