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One thing I love about being a book blogger is that you get to read books you would never normally pick up! Kaerou Time To Go Home is one out of my usual comfort zone with its genre and themes, but I’m so glad that B Jeanne Shibahara got in contact with me, so thank you to the author for giving me a copy of your book in exchange for a review!
“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.”
(Taken from Goodreads)
Generally, I have two types of reading style. For books I like I race through them, devouring them like a needed meal. For books I don’t like I get through them, reluctantly, feeling as if it’s just another chore.
Kaerou Time To Go Home encouraged a new kind of reading style in me – a commitment to one section a day, the highlight of my day, where I would clear all distractions for up to an hour and just savour my time with the prose. It felt like an indulgence, and over the past week or so it was as if I had spent a little bit of each day with a friend.
The writing in Kaerou Time To Go Home is slow and deliberate, with the author weaving past and present together to give us a beautiful picture of not only the characters that we follow, but the land that has made them the way they are. Possibly not a book for those of you that crave action and suspense, but I was entranced by how easy to read and yet powerful and meaningful the writing was – a balance that I imagine is difficult to create.
I’ve mentioned that this book isn’t one that I necessarily would have picked up off the shelf, and another reason why this is is down to the amount of characters – something I usually don’t gel with due to my bad memory and distracted nature. There are so many characters in the story and, for once, I absolutely loved this. Meryl is our main character of course, but we learn so much about other characters as we make progress in the book, from the eclectic and vibrant English teachers Meryl spends most of her time with to Mr. Ono, the fervent journalist and English student whose passion for his one true love gets him through life.
One of my favourite characters to follow was Ms. Kawanashi, an older Japanese woman with the most fascinating of war-torn backstories. Although perhaps not super crucial to the plot we spend a few in-depth chapters with her, and this is where Shibahara’s writing really starts to shine. Sometimes I struggle with historical fiction but I was completely absorbed in the the history of Japan, learning so much from these flashback chapters (which featured for several other characters, too) – not just an insight into the war from both Japanese and American perspectives, but also parts of Japanese culture that aren’t so focused on here in the West. Some of it felt like non-fiction, but poetic, and I loved the inclusion of that alongside the fictional narrative.
Interestingly, the main plot of Meryl taking the flag back to its rightful owner is not driven by the many subplots, but rather it paves the way for those subplots to happen. I thought this was clever and unusual, as of course many books use subplots as a tool to advance the story in a more fulfilling way. At times it’s easy to forget the real reason why Meryl is in Japan, but when we do eventually get back on that road it somehow makes it all the more meaningful.
I don’t think Kaerou Time To Go Home will be for everyone given it’s unusual writing style, but for me it was a book that I will always treasure. Reading it was a true experience, and some parts even brought a tear to my eye – both happy and sad.
With a poignant story and rich descriptions that make you feel as though you too have adventured to the heart of Japan, Kaerou Time To Go Home is a book written for those who want not only a beautiful read but also a heartfelt and encompassing experience.
If you’d like to purchase a copy of Kaerou Time To Go Home by B. Jeanne Shibahara then you can do so using the following links:
B. Jeanne Shibahara (Japanese: 芝原 美人) is a contemporary Japanese writer. She is of German and Scottish descent.
She studied creative writing in the MA program at Arizona State University where she adopted the mantra of her professor, Mark Harris (Bang the Drum Slowly). “No tears in the writer. No tears in the reader.” In Japan, she has taught English at a private university and written articles for research groups.
She’s married to Professor Emeritus Akira Shibahara of Osaka Prefecture University. The couple divides their time between Nara City, an ancient capital of Japan, and the Tohoku District.
(Taken from Goodreads)
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