Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein

A lush, exquisitely rendered meditation on war, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment tells the story of several families, American and Japanese, their loves and infidelities, their dreams and losses, and how they are all connected by one of the most devastating acts of war in human history.

In this evocative and thrilling epic novel, fifteen-year-old Yoshi Kobayashi, child of Japan’s New Empire, daughter of an ardent expansionist and a mother with a haunting past, is on her way home on a March night when American bombers shower her city with napalm—an attack that leaves one hundred thousand dead within hours and half the city in ashen ruins. In the days that follow, Yoshi’s old life will blur beyond recognition, leading her to a new world marked by destruction and shaped by those considered the enemy: Cam, a downed bomber pilot taken prisoner by the Imperial Japanese Army; Anton, a gifted architect who helped modernize Tokyo’s prewar skyline but is now charged with destroying it; and Billy, an Occupation soldier who arrives in the blackened city with a dark secret of his own. Directly or indirectly, each will shape Yoshi’s journey as she seeks safety, love, and redemption.

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is an intriguing look at war and survival, and the ability of the human spirit to endure. The main conflict in the story is the bombing of Tokyo during World War II.

Yoshi is a young woman at the center of the story. Her father is a major builder in the city and her mother with a troubled past who was the granddaughter of a Samurai warrior. There are several supporting characters in the story who each add a layer of intensity to this epic tale and help to unfold the mystery within the story.

Expertly researched and beautifully written, this novel sweeps a wide span to give readers an indepth look at the atrocities of war and the impact upon those who survived. There are several threads to follow, but they are expertly woven and the plot is easy to follow. This novel reaches deep into one’s soul to fill readers with a realm of emotions. It deals with issues of conscience, forgiveness, love, and endurance. A fascinating read beautifully rendered.