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Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

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We are halfway through September (tomorrow is my birthday), and I’m struggling to find a fall rhythm. Here’s what I have been reading:

The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World, Laura Imai Messina
Since Yui lost her mother and her daughter in the 2011 tsunami, she has been paralyzed by grief. But then she hears about a phone booth in a garden by the sea: a place for people to come and talk to their lost loved ones. When she starts visiting the phone booth, Yui meets others who are grieving, and they form a kind of community. Lovely and poignant. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 2021).

Windy City Blues, Sara Paretsky
I flew through this collection of short stories featuring my favorite Chicago detective, V.I. Warshawski. Many familiar characters – her neighbor, several friends – make appearances, and the cases are entertaining.

Her Last Flight, Beatriz Williams
In 1947, photographer Janey Everett heads to Spain in search of downed pilot Sam Mallory. What she finds there leads her to rural Hawaii, in search of the woman who was his flying partner and possibly his lover. Williams writes lush, satisfying historical fiction with wry dialogue, and I enjoyed this story.

Ways to Make Sunshine, Renée Watson
Ryan Hart, age 10, is juggling a lot: her family’s new (old) house, her fear of public speaking, her irritating older brother, the school talent show. But she’s smart, spunky and creative, and I loved watching her face her problems with grit and joy.

The Arctic Fury, Greer Macallister
Boston, 1853: a wealthy Englishwoman recruits experienced trail guide Virginia Reeve and a dozen other women for an all-female Arctic expedition. A year later, Virginia is on trial for murder. Macallister expertly weaves together two timelines, delving into each woman’s viewpoint and building to a few terrible reveals. Compelling, if gruesome at times. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Dec. 1).

The Switch, Beth O’Leary
Leena Cotton needs a break after blowing a big presentation at work. Her grandmother, Eileen, needs a change of scenery, too. So they switch lives: Leena goes to rural Yorkshire and Eileen goes to London. I loved watching these two women live each other’s lives: Leena dives headfirst into planning the May Day festival and Eileen discovers online dating, among other things. Sweet, warm and funny.

Evidence, Mary Oliver
Oliver’s poems have been keeping me company over breakfast this summer. This collection includes musings on flora and fauna, heartbreak and joy, and so much keen-eyed noticing. Lovely.

One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder, Brian Doyle
I adore Doyle’s rambling joyous exuberant prose and “proems.” I once reviewed an anthology he had edited, and he sent me a lovely email about it. This posthumous collection of his essays is vintage Doyle: warmhearted, keen-eyed, sharp and sweet and compassionate.

In Praise of Retreat, Kirsteen Macleod
In our ultra-connected world, retreating is both frowned upon and immensely appealing. Macleod weaves her own story of various types of retreats (yoga ashrams, cabins in the woods) together with research and musings on retreat as a practice. Thoroughly researched and interesting, but reading this one during semi-quarantine was kind of a slog. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 30, 2021).

By the Book, Amanda Sellet
Bookish Mary Porter-Malcolm knows all about the pitfalls awaiting young ladies who are trying to find eligible men. But when she’s thrust into the social politics of 21st-century high school, she starts to realize real life doesn’t always match the books. I loved this YA novel – Mary is both smart and endearingly clueless. Her big, loud family and professor parents were so much fun, and the dialogue is hilarious. Found at The Book Shop of Beverly Farms.

Links (not affiliate links) are to local bookstores I love: Trident, Frugal Bookstore and Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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Sixty-five years ago today, Japanese forces attacked a sleepy airbase on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. About 16 months ago, I made a trip out there myself, to see what has become a name that looms large in the American consciousness. Pearl Harbor: everyone knows about it, and everyone instantly grows quiet and somber when it gets mentioned.

Cole and I got up at the crack of dawn on my last morning in Hawaii, and we drove out to Pearl Harbor together in Scott’s big blue whale of a van. We arrived early enough to beat most of the crowds, and were ushered into a small theater where we watched a film – actual newsreel footage of the attack. (I always wonder who is brave and foolhardy enough to film these things as they’re actually happening.)

After the film, we wandered around the exhibits for a while, reading all sorts of information about the war, both armies, the ships and other equipment they used, battles on other Pacific islands, and firsthand accounts from servicemen, which I found most interesting. Many of them were near my age, which was 21 at the time. They witnessed horrific destruction that day, and lost people who were very dear to them. War is no respecter of persons. It cuts down the young, old, infirm or healthy, and wounds the hearts of all.

The morning ended with a short ferry ride out into the harbor, where the remains of the USS Arizona still lie sunken under a white floating dock of sorts. There is a wall of names, much like the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C. – the casualty list of those who died that day. There’s an open space surrounded by railing where you can look down into the water, and I remember seeing flowers. Bunches of flowers – leis and bouquets that people had brought in memory of their loved ones or in honor of the soldiers. And on the water around, patches of oil still leak up from one of the hatches. A fitting, if obvious, metaphor for the fact that wars don’t end when peace treaties are signed. Their effects go on and on and on.

That day, Cole told me about a song he was writing called “Infamy,” which has since become one of my favorite JamisonPriest songs. It’s about a woman who lost her husband at Pearl Harbor, and it weaves together the attack, swing dance, grief and memory. That song has perhaps done more than anything to ensure that I will never forget. In my mind with the images of the Arizona and the exhibits is an image of her, remembering…

She dreams about a soldier in the dark
Shaven face, a pretty diamond ring
She holds onto a chain of metal tags
And fifty years unbroken wondering

In her closet underneath his uniform
A pair of Mary Janes that she has never worn
He brought them home to her in 1941
The day their child was born
And now she’s waiting patiently for Friday night
The big band and the horns…

You can read the full lyrics at http://www.jamisonpriest.com. And whether you do or don’t, stop and take a moment to remember.

*title from “Infamy” by Cole Bennett

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