Book Review: Under the Pong Pong Tree by Hal Levey

I was provided with a free copy of the book by Publishing Push in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book:

Under the Pong Pong Tree

“Nothing can prepare the Chinese residents of Singapore for the tyranny that is ahead when the Japanese invade Singapore during World War II.

They get a sense of their new reality when Col. Kosaka stands in the shade of a Pong Pong tree—a tree that bears poisonous fruit—and orders the beheading of Mr. Tan, owner of a rubber plantation.

Li Lian Goh, a beautiful, sixteen-year-old girl, survives the carnage that follows, but her family is torn apart—like so many others that come under the iron fist of the Japanese.

She’s consigned to a military brothel where she is impregnated by a cruel Japanese officer. Desperate to survive and protect her unborn daughter, she manages to escape and gives birth in a Malay village to a baby girl she names Maimunah.

Capt. Mike Cagle, an American fighter pilot in Vietnam, meets Maimunah in her home village many years later, and he’s dazzled by her beauty. But their blossoming romance seems doomed when a missile locks onto Cagle’s F-4.

Love and the brutality of war are woven together in a beautiful, heart-wrenching tapestry in Under the Pong Pong Tree.”

My thoughts:

The story brings out the truth behind what people faced during the WWII when the Japanese invaded Singapore. It is  both horrifying and brutally honest. The author does not hesitate describe the events in great detail with no sugar coating to make it seem less horrific.

The story told from the perspective of a female protagonist is strong and highlights her life and what she has faced. the story is phased out in two parts; the first from Li Lian’s childhood until she takes over the rubber plantations and the second is when her daughter Maimunah comes back into her life along with the introduction of Mike Cagle, an american who only seems to add to the charm of the various characters present.

There are a lot of characters involved in the story, but the beauty lies in the way they all come together at the end. Each one has a specific role to play and they each bring with them a part of the story. The strength of the story lies in the plot and the style of narration.

The author intersperses the deeper relationships of friendship and family along with the more superficial ones. He brings out the feelings of misery, hatred as well as love amidst the backdrop of the war. The underlying message is that of trust and loyalty as well as to stick to one’s beliefs.

Li Lian may have been through a lot in the story as well as done a lot, however we are shown that she was human. She was not always right and even she accepted it. She meets a lot of people in her journey, many who help her and many who don’t and she forms bonds that remain for life. This is the beauty of the narration and character sketches. The characters are very well developed and have various shades to them some even coming across as vibrant. A peep into our history in a fresh way is a good way to describe this book.

If I continue typing I may just give away the entire story as it is still fresh in my mind. To prevent that, I will stop with my raving and say that I strongly recommend this book to all bookworms out there. This is a refreshing read and a breath taking, heart  stopping account of life faced during the WWII, and a look at a smaller war that most would not comment on.

Buy links to the book on Amazon:

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