KA-E-RO-U Time to Go Home by B. Jeanne Shibahara
Publication Date : October 13th 2018
Genre : Cultural Historical Fiction
Pages : 286
Stars : ★★★☆☆
“In Japan…everywhere…red strings tie all people we meet together. Some strings are weak. Some have tangles. Some strong.”
Meryl—Vietnam War widow—misses her grown son, feels left out after her father’s recent marriage. A WWII Japanese flag falls into her hands. The gentle push of a love-struck professor starts her adventure—take the flag home. From the neon of Osaka, to the ancient capital Nara, to the forests of Akita, the trail follows a newspaper reporter, factory manager, ikebana teacher, a Matagi hunter and winds through Japanese culture, past and present. A story of shared humanity and love “in the simplest things.”
*** Note: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. ***
Kaerou, revolved around Meryl’s journey to Japan, delivering the flag she discovered to family of fallen soldier. It’s a journey of self-discovery and love, letting go of past, making peace with what was lost in war, and embracing life.
Meryl was a widow who lost her husband in war. Her son moved to Japan and didn’t keep in touch, in fact, he did not inform her about his actual whereabouts and eloped with his girlfriend. Her father has remarried and was going on holiday with new wife. She felt low and unwanted and by little persuasion from her father and cousin she decided to take her Japanese flag of fallen soldier to his family in Japan.
Writing was lyrical and poetic, some descriptions were beautiful and the character’s story was wonderfully narrated in third person voice but it was not wow.
Setting was good. We are introduced to Japan, their culture, people, and importance of foreign language in 1995. What I loved was the tradition and nature of Japanese, description of picturesque places that want you to visit Japan once in life.
The book was more character driven than plot. Side characters were quirky. All characters were introduced in first few chapters which made it hard to get into book but as book progressed, we know them more closely. Each characters had their limelight.
The story of characters who came to Japan to teach English at Namba School was intriguing. Fiona, Jo, Darryl, Elliot helped Meryl once she arrived Japan. Some of the Japanese students at school had their own story as well. It was amazing to see different people coming from different background and culture at one place bonding with the strong red thread.
Book slowly turned from Meryl and teachers at the school to Japanese characters and their life which was gripping. Mr. Ono, Ms. Kawanishi, Mr. Baba, Sato and Ayako were impressive and their story felt so realistic and touching. They had charm that wanted me to keep reading even though there were some things that made me to put the book down.
Ms. Kawanishi’s backstory was most impressive of all. She really steal the show. I was more interested in her story than Meryl’s. Her childhood, dreams, love and married life, her exquisite kimonos were enchanting. If book has focused on just her with some more spices and drama, I would have given this book full star.
Meryl was nice character. I liked her loyalty to her husband. She loved him and yet didn’t fail to see imperfection. Her guilt was realistic. As the novel progressed she developed, learned to live, gave voice to her inner feelings, found freedom and confidence, and made friends who helped her in her journey and stayed with her throughout the book.
Best moments in the story were, the cornbread story, Matagi hunters, tale of hunger and how characters survived, effect of Vietnam war, WWII on Japan and its culture, people, how their life changed because of war and how they all found their way to come out of it.
End was good. I liked that mystery woman mystery. I was surprised to find out who it was. All characters got their happy ending.
Writing was okay, at some point, it was confusing. I didn’t enjoy that chapter in hotel with other teachers. Like its title it didn’t make sense. Conversations were hard to follow at some places. Sometimes it felt disconnected and incomprehensible.
Plot was okay. It was more character driven and characters only made it impressive.
Romance was not the strong part. I wouldn’t have mind if there wasn’t any love stories, except Ms. Kawanishi’s.
Pace was bumpy and Meryl didn’t make an everlasting impression. I didn’t feel connected to her.
Overall, it was nice, exceptional with strong culture, history, characters and insights. If you like character driven cultural and historical stories, this is for you.
What do you think about the book? Have you read it already? Are you going to add it to TBR? Do you like cultural and historical books? If so, recommend me your favorite books in this genre.
Share your thoughts in the comment-box below.