My thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of the book in return for an honest review.
Quick Review (read on for full review)
Sweet, charming and powerful, and at times, extraordinarily moving. Rich, vivid descriptions and a varied cast of characters come together to create a beautiful story. 5 / 5
Summary (from Goodreads)
“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.”
The story is full of the most beautiful writing and I had a hard time picking just one favourite quote…so I picked two instead:
“I would, you know. Love again.” Her voice was kind…as heartbreaking as a whisper of leaves in a frosty wind.
The flag was much more than a piece of cloth to Mr. Ono. The flag was the soldier. The soldier had come back the only way he could – in the words written for him, in his bloodstains, in the memories of those who knew about the flags.
I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book quite like this one. It’s sweet, charming and powerful, and at times, extraordinarily moving.
Set in the 1990’s, this story is about people; what they went through, how they survived and how the past shaped who they became. What I loved about the story was that every character we met had a story to tell – and we got to hear it, which is unusual, for these side characters are often pushed aside in order to make room for the story.
The main character was Meryl, though she was not always centre stage. It was wonderful to see Meryl grow as the story unfolded. By the time we reached the end, she was a new person with a different outlook on life, and perhaps most importantly, hope for the future in her heart. My favourite character was probably Fiona; her frank and outspoken nature appealed to me.
I liked the presentation of the story. Each chapter started with a quote, many I had never encountered before. The accompanying artwork is stunning – just look at that cover! – and compliments the text perfectly.
The writing style was poetic and rich, and the descriptions of Japan, especially the ones of rural areas, were beautiful. Mountains, streams, trees, flowers, birds, deer…I could picture them all. Yet the beauty in the story is in stark contrast to some of the characters’ memories of war.
Reading this story was an enriching, emotional experience. There is so much history and culture woven into the narrative that not only did I enjoy reading Kaerou, but I learned a lot as I read it. I would happily read this book again, and recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction set in the twentieth century and romance.
And of course, I now want to visit Japan…