in conversation with Kathryn Ma
The Great Reclamation
Corte Madera Store
Sat., April 1, 2023 • 4:00pm PT
Set against a changing Singapore, a sweeping novel about one boy’s unique gifts and the childhood love that will complicate the fate of his community and country
Ah Boon is born into a fishing village amid the heat and beauty of twentieth-century coastal Singapore in the waning years of British rule. He is a gentle boy who is not much interested in fishing, preferring to spend his days playing with the neighbor girl, Siok Mei. But when he discovers he has the unique ability to locate bountiful, movable islands that no one else can find, he feels a new sense of obligation and possibility — something to offer the community and impress the spirited girl he has come to love.
By the time they are teens, Ah Boon and Siok Mei are caught in the tragic sweep of history: the Japanese army invades, the resistance rises, grief intrudes, and the future of the fishing village is in jeopardy. As the nation hurtles toward rebirth, the two friends, newly empowered, must decide who they want to be, and what they are willing to give up.
An aching love story and powerful coming-of-age that reckons with the legacy of British colonialism, the World War II Japanese occupation, and the pursuit of modernity, The Great Reclamation confronts the wounds of progress, the sacrifices of love, and the difficulty of defining home when nature and nation collide, literally shifting the land beneath people’s feet.
Born and raised in Singapore, Rachel Heng is the author of the novel Suicide Club, translated into ten languages. Her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Glimmer Train, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers and has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the National Arts Council of Singapore, among others. She is currently an assistant professor of English at Wesleyan University.
Kathryn Ma is the author of the widely praised novel The Year She Left Us, which was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice and an NPR “Great Read” of the year. Her short story collection, All That Work and Still No Boys, won the Iowa Short Fiction Award and was named a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Discoveries Book. She is also a recipient of the David Nathan Meyerson Prize for Fiction and has twice been named a San Francisco Public Library Laureate. Her latest book is The Chinese Groove: A Novel.
Rachel Heng photo courtesy of Juliana Tan.