The Disappeared by Kim Echlin
One Halloween night when Anne Greves is 16, she goes with older friends to a jazz club and falls in love for the first time in her young life. Serey is an older man, already in his 20s, a musician, who has already lived too hard a young life. He is in Canada to further his studies in mathematics from his native Cambodia, the only member of his family to escape the vicious Khmer Rouge genocide. Initially, love is enough for Anne and Serey, and they are caught up only in each other. Anne leaves her widowed father who shuns her new lover, admonishing her for being so young and foolish.
But the ghosts of his family call Serey home, and he must return to find out what has happened to them. Anne is devastated, growing more despondent when she does not hear from him. Eleven years later, Anne travels to Phnom Penh, convinced that she saw Serey in a television report. Now fluent in Khmer, Anne meets a local driver, Mau, who eventually, remarkably leads her to Serey. Their reunion is overwhelming with both intense loss and joy. But it cannot last and Serey becomes one of the many millions of “disappeared.” But in her utter grief – how ironically, tragically fitting that her name, Greves, is a homonym for ‘grieves’ – Anne cannot, will not ever let Serey go.
Through the tragic love story of two lost souls, Kim Echlin adds an urgent human dimension to the unbearable numbers of history’s inhumanity. The Cambodian genocide of the late 1970s which claimed some two million lives – collateral damage is far too much about the innocent victims – looms large in Echlin’s searing book that attempts to give names and faces to the far too many that disappeared, and the few who tried to survive with some semblance of humanity intact.