I’m delighted to be taking part in the tour today for When the Future Comes too Soon by acclaimed Chinese-Malaysian novelist, Selina Siak Chin Yoke.
When the Future Comes too Soon is a vividly drawn evocation of life in Japanese occupied Malaya in WW2 and follows Mei Foong’s struggle to keep her family and marriage together during the occupation. Published by Amazon Crossing on 18th July it’s available in all formats now.
Today I have an excerpt for you to enjoy but first, here’s more information about the novel:
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: AmazonCrossing (18 July 2017)
Following the death of their matriarch, the lives of Chye Hoon’s family are 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.
They have come. The thought hit me as my daughter’s voice pierced the quiet of that beautiful morning of 15 December 1941. I heard her scream ‘Eggs falling on the ground!’ and sensed that our lives were about to change irrevocably.
From the bedroom I half-walked, half-ran into the outer hall. It must have taken no more than a minute, though I’d had a bout of morning sickness and my movements could have been ungainly. I was only six weeks pregnant, but being slim and of small build, my baby was already starting to show, a solid presence whose agitation I was convinced I felt from time to time. I had reached the barlay – a raised platform made of parquet for sitting or sleeping on – when the first blast came. There was a violent quake. The very walls of our house shook. In front of me, panes of glass on the louvre windows rattled so loudly that I thought they would shatter. Even the trunk of the flame-of-the-forest tree in our garden swayed from side to side, its vermillion leaves rustling shrilly and then dropping as if blown by a strong wind. The hefty front door of our house stood wide open.
As I hurried outside and around the corner, I saw the planes in the distance. But perhaps I did not see them – perhaps I only heard them. I imagined a whole formation, unfurling like a flag in the opal sky. For months, the talk had been of nothing but war and now they were here, the Japanese forces who only the week before, on the night my mother-in-law, Chye Hoon, passed away, had made an incursion into northern Malaya. It had not taken them long to reach our mining town. With conflict on our doorstep, we stood on the precipice of a new age.
In the far corner of our garden, our two eldest children stood beside the gardeners, Samad and Kamil, whose hands were raised to their foreheads as they peered at the sky. I had not taken another step before the second blast reverberated. The ground shuddered and my gut sank, the way it sometimes did during menstruation, as if my innards were being sucked into the earth. I saw the black dashes then, gliding across a liquid sky.
Planes rarely flew over our house; when they did, there was likely to be only one, not an entire squadron. The aircraft could have belonged to our British rulers, but for some reason I did not think so.
It took me a few minutes to understand. We had only vaguely heard about bombs then; we did not really know what they were. The planes made a loud buzzing as they began to swoop. I was frightened and at the same time mesmerised by the sight of the dashes falling, one by one, dropping strange oval balls in sleek lines. Some sank straight to the ground; others moved in curved trajectories, zigzagging, buffeted by invisible gusts. It was only when the balls landed that their terrifying power became clear, and my brain made the connection between the earth convulsing and this strange rain.
At that moment I let out a cry. Although the bombs had dropped some distance away, I could feel grit churning under my feet. I thought the land was going to open up and swallow us all. I imagined the limestone hills surrounding Ipoh being blown apart. My stomach lurched and I felt sick.
From the direction of the town, a column of smoke was rising. My only thought was of getting everyone into the house.
‘Go inside! Inside now!’ I screamed.
For once, my son and daughter seemed to move too slowly. I remember pulling them by their hands and Samad lifting my eldest son, Wai Sung, while Kamil grabbed hold of my daughter’s hand as we scrambled inside through the kitchen door. As soon as we had slammed it, I scanned the room and saw that my second son, Wai Kit, was being cradled by one of the servants. Baby Robert was inside too, in the arms of another servant. But there was still my husband, Weng Yu, who had left earlier for his office in the heart of Ipoh town.
The smoke . . . I need a phone.
I remembered that my brother-in-law Weng Yoon, my husband’s fourth brother, who lived next door with his family, owned this modern apparatus.
‘Lock all the doors,’ I commanded Chang Ying, the tiny girl who had once been my personal maid and now served as cook and amah. Only then did I notice how the blood had drained from her face and how she stood shivering with eyes agog. The other servants were equally stricken, like cats in the midst of being run over. Ah Hong, who had worked in the Wong household for thirty-seven years, began to weep. Irritation surged through me, though I kept my temper. In our inner hall the grandfather clock struck eleven times. I knew I would have to move before it was too late.
A very visual scene I think you’ll agree!
Of Malaysian-Chinese heritage, Selina Siak Chin Yoke grew up listening to family stories and ancient legends, always knowing that one day she would write. After an eclectic life as a physicist, banker and trader in London, Selina was diagnosed with cancer, the second major illness she had to battle. While recovering, she decided not to delay her dream of writing any longer. Her first novel, The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds, was published in November 2016 and debuted as an Amazon best-seller in historical fiction and was compared to the work of Pearl S. Buck and Amy Tan. When the Future Comes Too Soon is Selina’s second novel.
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