In this spellbinding novel, an ordinary housewife becomes an unlikely spy—and her dark secrets will test even the most unbreakable ties.
Malaya, 1945. Cecily Alcantara’s family is in terrible danger: her fifteen-year-old son, Abel, has disappeared, and her youngest daughter, Jasmin, is confined in a basement to prevent being pressed into service at the comfort stations. Her eldest daughter Jujube, who works at a tea house frequented by drunk Japanese soldiers, becomes angrier by the day.
Cecily knows two things: that this is all her fault; and that her family must never learn the truth.
A decade prior, Cecily had been desperate to be more than a housewife to a low-level bureaucrat in British-colonized Malaya. A chance meeting with the charismatic General Fujiwara lured her into a life of espionage, pursuing dreams of an “Asia for Asians.” Instead, Cecily helped usher in an even more brutal occupation by the Japanese. Ten years later as the war reaches its apex, her actions have caught up with her. Now her family is on the brink of destruction—and she will do anything to save them.
Spanning years of pain and triumph, told from the perspectives of four unforgettable characters, The Storm We Made is a dazzling saga about the horrors of war; the fraught relationships between the colonized and their oppressors, and the ambiguity of right and wrong when survival is at stake.
About the Author
Vanessa Chan is the Malaysian author of The Storm We Made, a national bestseller, Good Morning America Book Club Pick and BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick. Acquired by international publishers in a flurry of auctions, the novel, her first, will be published in more than twenty languages worldwide. Her other work has been published in Vogue, Esquire, and more. Vanessa grew up in Malaysia and is now based mostly in Brooklyn.
"One of the best espionage novels I’ve ever come across." —CrimeReads
"Vanessa Chan is the kind of author who can completely transport you to another time and place… it is a total page turner.” —Good Morning America, GMA Book Club Pick
“This ambitious and sweeping debut novel explores the fallout of a Malayan woman’s decision to become a spy for Japanese forces in World War II, unwittingly helping to usher in a brutal occupation with devastating costs for her family.” —New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice
“’Ambitious’ would be a trite term for Vanessa Chan’s outstanding debut, a historical novel that thrums with the commingling tensions of its backdrop: the lead-up to the WWII Japanese invasion of what is now Malaysia. Chan writes her characters—particularly the conflicted protagonist, Cecily Alcantara, a former espionage asset to the Japanese Imperial Army—with a precision that neither flinches from the brutality of war nor ignores the humanity within. This is a book with real staying power.” —Elle Magazine
“[T]his debut novel grabs the reader by the throat and never lets go, following a single family through one of World War II’s most grisly—and often overlooked—chapters... Moving between perspectives and timelines—between actions and their disastrous, unforeseen consequences—Chan tests the bounds of familial bonds, political sacrifice, and human resilience.” —Oprah Daily, The Best Novels to Read This January
“A wartime story like you’ve never read before.” —PEOPLE Magazine
"[A] searing debut.... Conquest and colonization have long been fertile subjects in fiction, from Joseph Conrad to present-day writers such as Zadie Smith and Imbolo Mbue. Like them, Chan uses colonialism as a lens through which to examine such themes as racism, colorism, status, poverty and violence.... The author and her relatives carry 'the legacy of colonization' in their bodies, Chan writes, and it was this intergenerational trauma — and resilience — she wanted to evoke through [her novel]. With authenticity and passion, Chan succeeds in imparting their pain and will to survive, through singular characters whose flaws and contradictions are as fascinating as their strengths." —Leigh Haber, Washington Post
"This ambitious and sweeping debut novel explores the fallout of a Malayan woman’s decision to become a spy for Japanese forces during World War II. Seduced by promises of an “Asia for Asians,” she instead helps usher in a brutal occupation with devastating costs for her family.“ —The New York Times
“Vanessa Chan’s espionage-laden family epic, which takes place in Malaya under British and Japanese occupation, dissects the moral complexity of decisions made under duress.” —Vanity Fair
“Chan shows us, with clarity and care, how the truest mirror comes from the intimacy of human connection.” —NPR
"The Storm We Made is a searing look at the impacts of colonialism, the horrors of war, and the power of a mother's love.” —Town & Country, "The 30 Must-Read Books of Winter 2024"
"The Storm We Made kicks up a weather system of epic proportions, ranging from military terror during World War II to domestic warmth…. The book’s greatest power: It makes space for complexity without relinquishing the grip of a good story…. Chan reveals how war is experienced in bodies and hearts, breaking down the morale of those who remain.… This is a novel concerned with power — how it’s given and taken, whom we must align with to get close to it — and the consuming desire for more…. But simmering beneath all of this is the will to dream — for the self, the family and the nation.… What makes the book pulse with life is … the tenderness in its details, the ordinary ways that these characters love and laugh in the face of the extraordinary…. Chan shows us, with clarity and care, how the truest mirror comes from the intimacy of human connection.” —The New York Times Book Review
"January may find you dry, blue and still vacuuming pine needles from the carpet. A favorite way to inject excitement into that postholiday apathy? Espionage. Vanessa Chan’s historical fiction debut, set in the 1930s and ’40s, centers on a Malayan mother of three. Seduced by the promise of an Asia for Asians, she sees that promise break during the Japanese occupation.” —The Morning newsletter, The New York Times
“World War II might be the most popular subject for historical fiction, but Vanessa Chan's debut, The Storm We Made, defies the typical focus on the Western front and a clear-cut distinction between good and evil that characterizes many books… [a] heartbreaking story of a family riven by war.” —Jenny Shank, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“The intrigue begins from page one of Malaysian author Vanessa Chan’s much-heralded debut novel. This historical family saga tells the story of a Malayan mother caught up in espionage during World War II through varying points of view, handled expertly by Chan.” —Hannah Bae, San Francisco Chronicle, Datebook "19 New Books to Cozy Up With This Winter"