Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Beside a Burning Sea

Beside a Burning Sea

4.0 28
by John Shors

See All Formats & Editions

From the author of Beneath a Marble Sky comes an inspiring new novel of a man and a woman from different worlds whose love is put to the ultimate test as they struggle to survive an extraordinary set of circumstances.

View our feature on John Shors' Beside a Burning Sea.

One moment, the World War II hospital ship Benevolence is


From the author of Beneath a Marble Sky comes an inspiring new novel of a man and a woman from different worlds whose love is put to the ultimate test as they struggle to survive an extraordinary set of circumstances.

View our feature on John Shors' Beside a Burning Sea.

One moment, the World War II hospital ship Benevolence is patrolling the South Pacific on a mission of mercy—to save wounded American soldiers. The next, Benevolence is split in two by a torpedo, killing almost everyone on board. A small band of survivors, including an injured Japanese soldier and a young American nurse whom he saves from drowning, makes it to the deserted shore of a nearby island.

Akira has suffered five years of bloodshed and horror fighting for the Japanese empire. Now, surrounded by enemies he is supposed to hate, he instead finds solace in their company—and rediscovers his love of poetry. While sharing the mystery and beauty of this passion with Annie, the captivating but tormented woman he rescued, Akira grapples with the pain of his past while helping Annie uncover the promise of her future. Meanwhile, the remaining castaways endure a world not of their making—a world as barbaric as it is beautiful, as hateful as it is loving.

With the blend of epic storytelling and emotional intensity that distinguishes him as a unique talent, John Shors reveals a powerful story of redemption focusing on unlikely lovers, heroes and villains, and war-torn countries—all, in their own ways, fighting to survive.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Shors' sophomore effort (following Beneath a Marble Sky), set on an island in the South Pacific during three weeks in 1942, features achingly lyrical prose, even in depicting the horrors of war. After a U.S. hospital ship is torpedoed and sunk by the Japanese, a handful of survivors struggle for survival on a remote island. They include the captain and an officer; a Japanese prisoner, Akira, and two ship's nurses he saved (one of them the captain's wife); and the ship's engineer, who saves a Fijian stowaway, Ratu. Akira, a college professor pressed into service, is haunted by what he saw, did, and didn't do at Nanking. Jake, the engineer, is a black farmer who sees in Ratu the son he never had. Ratu adds a colorful combination of winsome bravado, humor and childish fear; each main character is similarly well-rounded, excepting the single-minded traitor among them, unsuspected by his fellow castaways. Shors pays satisfying attention to class and race dynamics, as well as the tension between wartime enemies. The survivors' dignity, quiet strength and fellowship make this a magical read.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Des Moines Register
Jahanara is a beguiling heroine whom readers will come to love; none of today's chick-lit heroines can match her dignity, fortitude and cunning...Elegant, often lyrical, writing distinguishes this literary fiction from the genre known as historical romance. It is truly a work of art, rare in a debut novel.
India Post
An exceptional work of fiction...A gripping account.
Rocky Mountain News
An absorbing novel about the extremes of passion—with much relevance for our own time.
As luminous a jewel as any that adorn the Taj Mahal's walls.
Kirkus Reviews
Survivors of a torpedo attack struggle for survival in the midst of World War II. Shors follows up his ambitious debut (Beneath a Marble Sky, 2004) with an undemanding but problematic survival story that falls somewhere between Lost and Father Goose. The U.S. hospital ship Benevolence is on war duty in the Solomon Islands in September 1942 when it's suddenly and purposefully torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, sending more than 500 souls to a watery grave. The ship's captain, Joshua Collins, survives the event along with several others, including his wife Isabelle, Isabelle's younger sister, Annie, a Japanese POW, Akira, and a young stowaway, Ratu, who is searching for his father. They manage to make their way to a strategically located island that threatens to be overrun by the enemy at any moment. Annie instantly forms a romantic, poetry-inspired bond with Akira, who is haunted by horrific memories of the Rape of Nanking. The good captain does some sulking over the loss of his ship until Isabelle fesses up that she's pregnant, forcing Joshua to cowboy up and lead his tattered crew to safety in the midst of a raging typhoon. But the group's biggest danger comes from within their own ranks. It turns out that Benevolence was targeted because of its clandestine cargo. The ship and its crew were betrayed by turncoat spy Roger, a former missionary who carries a burning hatred for the West and conspires regularly with the Japanese. Akira remains the only sympathetic and convincing character throughout, especially in the face of Roger's cartoonish rants, Joshua's square-jawed heroism and the addle-brained sisters, who comfort themselves with thoughts like, "Maybe there aren't reasons. Maybethings . . . evil things just happen."Fast-paced and earnest, but this tale of a fateful trip promises more depth than it delivers. Agent: Laura Dail/Laura Dail Literary Agency

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

John Shors traveled extensively throughout Asia after graduating from Colorado College in 1991, living for several years in Japan, where he taught English, and then trekking across the continent, visiting ten countries and climbing the Himalayas. More recently, Mr. Shors worked as a newspaper reporter in his hometown, Des Moines, Iowa, before entering public relations and moving to Boulder, Colorado. Beneath a Marble Sky is his first novel.

Brief Biography

Boulder, Colorado
Date of Birth:
March 4, 1969
Place of Birth:
Des Moines, Iowa
B.A. in English, Colorado College, 1991

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Beside a Burning Sea 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It was a quick read for me-- I just had to know what happened to the characters! Shors does a great job of keeping the pace moving from the very start. It's also interesting to contemplate the ways in which war changes people, some for better, others for the worse and how this book illustrates those points. Keep the tissues handy, as this book will have you crying.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In 1942, the hospital ship Benevolence with five hundred filled patients¿ beds is sailing the South Pacific near the Solomon Islands bringing medical assistance to sailors from both sides of the conflict as required by international law. Suddenly a Japanese torpedo hits the vessel ripping the boat in half. In the next instant, as the Benevolence is engulfed in chaos, most of the crew and patients die, but a few manage to make it to a nearby island.--------------- The survivors include the captain, his spouse a nurse, another officer, an engineer, a Japanese prisoner of war, a second nurse, and a Fijian stowaway. Each has felt the horrors of war, but now must find a way to cooperate if they are to survive. However one of them is a traitor who has their own agenda defining survival quite differently than the others.------------------- The key to this powerful WW II survivor drama is each cast member is fully developed with differing personalities and backgrounds this leads to unexpected relationships as race, culture, social class, and war are explored through the interactions of the characters. Perhaps the only minor quibble is a traitor seems unnecessary suspense padding, as John Shors provides a deep historical character study.------------------ Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I run to the door. *Knock Knock* i leqve a note.~ hello i like you but i am dancing with someone else afterward mabey!~
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oened her door collapsing on her bed ting off her mask. Her green eyes and pale skin shone although it was very beautiful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
blue2280 More than 1 year ago
I liked this book, don't get me wrong. It was good enough to keep me interested in it and I did want to know what happened in the end, which means I did care about the characters. The problem with the book is that it just didn't seem well written. "As if" was used so many times in this book I almost...almost...put it down. Every time I came across a sentence with "as if" in it, it would just jar me, and it happened...a lot! Sometimes less is more...especially when it come to describing scenes, or even thoughts ... and this book definitely needed to be edited some. But overall a good story.
sweet--pea More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book. It kept my interest through out. I have read a lot of WW II books and believe this is one of the best. The story kept you on the edge of your seat and it was hard to put the book down. Trying to live on a small island, that you know is fixing to be invaded by the enemy at anytime would be very stressful, then to add top of that, one of your own is a traitor. The book is well written and one of my top picks
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book on a cart at a book store in South Carolina for $3.00 and wasn't thinking that it would be all that great, but for 3 bucks figured, "why not?". I could not put this book down! I absolutely loved the characters and the plot...The author wrote in such a manner that you really fell in love with all of the characters and felt as if you knew them personally. The scene in the forest at the pool..I actually read twice! I loved this book so much that I immediately went out and bought his other book "Beneath a Marble Sky" and was equally impressed. I am eagerly awaiting his next book...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Booksnickety More than 1 year ago
Contrived story, conversations silly, waste of time reading this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JYW More than 1 year ago
Another well-written, well-scripted, captivating novel by John Shors. I preferred the story line of Beneath A Marble Sky, however I found the characters here to be quite complex and the plot development really engaging - it's a tough book to put down! Bravo!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago