Big Books & Bold Ideas with Kerri Miller

Family lore becomes rich historical fiction in 'The Storm We Made'

A woman poses next to her book
Vanessa Chan’s debut novel, “The Storm We Made,” unspools the consequences of a woman in pre-war Malaya deciding to become a spy for the Japanese.
Courtesy photos

Choices made in a moment reverberate for generations, despite best intentions.

Vanessa Chan adeptly explores this concept in her debut novel, “The Storm We Made” — a work of historical fiction set in her home country of Malaysia, which was inspired by stories her grandmother would tell.

The main character is Cecily, a discontented housewife in 1930s Malaya, who is charmed into becoming a spy for the Japanese during the British occupation. She is increasingly disillusioned with the colonizing force and intrigued by a vision of “an Asia for Asians.” But her decisions ripple through the lives of her children in unforeseen and disastrous ways.

Chan doesn’t judge.

“Morality is very much dependent on circumstances,” the author tells host Kerri Miller on this week’s Big Books and Bold Ideas. “You cannot tell when faced with survival whether or not you’ll be as heroic or as cowardly as you think you’re going to be.”

Tune in this week for a warm conversation about roots, family lore and unanswered questions.

“I wrote about the ambiguity of right and wrong when survival is at stake,” Chan says in her forward. “I wrote because, at the end of the day, remembering is how we love.”


  • Vanessa Chan is a Malaysian author. Her debut novel, “The Storm We Made,” was one of the most anticipated books of 2024 and has sold rights in more than 20 countries.

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