3 ½ Stars out of Five
I would most definitely recommend this novel. I think author Jamie Ford has done a fantastic job of pacing, for one. So many times, authors are encouraged to start “in the middle of the action” and then just speed headlong from scene to scene. Ford allows this tale to deliciously unwind, while the reader is given the rare opportunity to savor every nuance along the way. The book actually opens with Henry as an adult, having just nursed his ailing wife through a losing battle with cancer and also contemplating how to mend his relationship with his son, Marty, who is soon to graduate college. Ford deftly moves the story back and forth in time from 1986 to 1942 and back again, like a slow, sensual dance, taking the reader right along with him. I was constantly driven to read “just one more chapter,” the ultimate compliment to any writer.
I wanted to give the book a more redemptive ending. That’s a literary way of saying, “And everyone lived happily ever after.”
The short story wrapped up on a fairly tragic note. And even if I continued the story in the ‘40s, there really wasn’t a way to give it an ending that felt satisfying. I mean, after the war was over, it didn’t suddenly get better for Japanese American families. Their lives had been completely turned upside down – sort of like people who survive a hurricane. Sure the wind stops blowing and the floodwaters recede, but what do you have left except rubble, and does that provide happiness or just relief? It took decades for most of these families to recover. It just seemed natural to have that redemptive ending come years later as well.
Also, I think that most people can relate to seeing their first love again, at a class reunion or just by chance, and there’s this wave of nostalgia and melancholy – it’s very poignant and universal, I think.