A charming, transporting story of an altogether horrifying event—the Japanese invasion and occupation of the Philippines during WWII—as seen through the fresh eyes of a young girl who survived the experience.
Maynard’s father was the manager of a gold mine (the Mindanao Mother Lode) in the Philippines when the Japanese overran the islands in 1942. The family fled to a more remote gold mining camp to await developments, and spent the next two years there, with occasional dashes into the jungle to avoid Japanese patrols. Maynard recounts those days as she experienced them as an eight-year-old, a new life infinitely more fascinating than her old one, in which danger lurked but never overwhelmed her curiosity or carefree spirit, coming to know her hideaway home “as only a child an know a place, and I loved it.” On the other hand, she includes excerpts from her mother’s diary for a touch of balance: “I try not to waken in the night because that’s when worries become unmanageable,” or the stark “I’m filled with terror.” Her father is a stiff and chilly individual; given charge of the retreat camp, “he quickly became unpopular and was regarded as a rigid authoritarian.” Fortunately, he does not dominate Maynard’s days, which are told here with an easy confidence. Hers had been a privileged life before the invasion (upon learning the servants would not be going with them, she wondered “who’ll wash our clothes and who’ll cook for us and polish the floors?”) but she easily adjusted, rapt in her new world of civets and snakes, guerrilla warfare, insects that look like vegetables, overeager boyfriends, new Filipino friends, and, surely, the submarine ride away to safety.
Skillfully captured in a voice at once dazzled with innocence and composed in its maturity, Maynard’s memoir is an elegant little time-traveler.