Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Family Devastated by a Historic Tragedy

On the day the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Amaterasu took her grandson, Hideo to school. She was supposed to meet her daughter Yuko at the cathedral later. They were estranged because of what Yuko chose to do.

Before Amaterasu set off to meet her daughter, the bomb exploded. The residents of Nagasaki called it “pikadon” a bright flash that changed their lives forever. Yuko was at the center of the blast. There was no hope of finding her, but Amaterasu and her husband, Kenzo, searched for Hideo. They never found him.

Now Amaterasu is a widow living in the United states when a badly scarred man arrives at her door claiming to be her lost grandson. Amaterasu finds it hard to accept that this man is her grandson, but his arrival triggers a flood of old memories.

The is a beautifully written book. The descriptions of Nagasaki both before and after the bombing make you feel that you can see the city. The characters are compelling. Although I couldn't feel warm about Amaterasu, I thought her character was well done.

The plot moves back and forth between the present and life before the bombing. In the early days we get to know Yuko and her relationship with Amaterasu. The mother-daughter relationship drives the story. Often I find a story that moves between time periods is better in one era than the other. In this case, I thought the author did a good job tying the past to the present and gradually revealing the problems that created friction between Amaterasu and her daughter.

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy family stories set in tragic circumstances.

I reviewed this book for Penguin.