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.
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.
My Thoughts: I have lately become interested in novels focusing on this era and The Gods of Heavenly Punishment delivers a very personal look at how World War II impacted families on both sides of the conflict. Set mostly in Tokyo with bits set in America as well, this novel excelled at showing the hardships, devastation, loneliness, desperation and even glimpses of hope of nations at war.
I immediately connected with the story of shy, handsome Cam Richards and his sweetheart Lacy as Cam prepares to follow his dream of being pilot in the military. We are then introduced to Japan born and Western bred Hana Kobayashi who is mistrusted because of her foreign ways, her seemingly mismatched architect husband Kenji and their bright daughter Yoshi who will become a focal point of the story. Each of these characters stories unfolds in a compelling narrative as Hana desperately seeks the attention she doesn't get from her husband, Yoshi tries to cope with her changing world as revelations about her life and parents are made and Japan goes from a proud nation to one that is struggling to survive.
This book is definitely literary historical fiction but is a surprisingly quick read. The only downfall for me was I would get invested in the storyline of one set of characters and while the transitions between story lines were well done, it was hard for me to switch back to the story arc of a different character. The pacing was a bit slow in spots but I really appreciated the fact that this book was rich with detail and held nothing back in describing the trials of these characters and the hardships brutality that war brings.
I also wished more time had been given to certain characters, namely Lacy but overall I enjoyed this book. The fluid writing and the desire to see what would become of all the characters kept me flying through the pages. I would definitely recommend to those who enjoy character driven World War II era books.
Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. These are my honest thoughts on the book.
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About the Author:
Cody Epstein is the author of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment and the
international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai. She has written for
The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, Self,
Mademoiselle and NBC, and has worked in Hong Kong, Japan and Bangkok,
Thailand. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, two daughters and
especially needy Springer Spaniel.
For more information, please visit www.jennifercodyepstein.com.