We, the Survivors by Tash Aw

1. First lines. 2. Publisher: Harper Collins 3. Green Field Man Farmer Crop Farm Standing Licence: [Public Domain] via Max Pixel 4. Water, field, river, pond Licence: [Public Domain] via PXhere
I liked this book.

Ah Hock, a Malaysian man of Chinese descent, is telling the story of his life to Su-Min, a sociologist who is writing a book. Su-Min has become interested due to publicity about his part in the murder of a Bangladeshi migrant. Ah Hock tells of his struggle to make a better life for himself in rural Malaysia, despite few opportunities.

“When faced with a door that’s wide open, how many of us actually walk through it? We never take the chance to flee. We stay. We recognize the danger, but something in our brains tells us it isn’t going to be so bad. We believe in life’s power to iron out the kinks in our existence and make things turn out OK. We don’t think anything fundamentally evil will occur to us. Everything will turn out just fine.”

“She was determined to turn that patch of land into a small fertile farm, with vegetables and maybe some tilapia that we could sell at the market. It would all be ours, we wouldn’t need to depend on anyone else. No one could sack her, no one could evict us. We were secure now.”

~Quotes from the book.
  • The Guardian: “Prejudice and the refugee experience are examined in this taut novel set in Malaysia.”
  • Kirkus: “A raw depiction of one man’s troubled life and the web of social forces that worked to shape it.”
  • Readings:We, The Survivors is a novel about place and class and the perverted conditions that breed violence. Yet it doesn’t provide easy conclusions – as Ah recounts, there is no clearly defined ‘why’ to his actions. Tash Aw challenges us to consider whether life is predestined and whether we have any power to change its path. It’s a profoundly moving novel.”

Other editions.

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