The Gods of Heavenly Punishment: A Novel

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment: A Novel

4.5 9
by Jennifer Cody Epstein
     
 

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“Showcases war’s bitter ironies . . . as well as its romantic serendipities.”—Vogue

In this evocative and thrilling epic novel, 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

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Overview

“Showcases war’s bitter ironies . . . as well as its romantic serendipities.”—Vogue

In this evocative and thrilling epic novel, 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In March 1945, American B-29 bombers flying at low altitude dropped incendiary bombs (napalm) over Tokyo, igniting the city's wood and paper buildings into a blaze that destroyed 17 square miles of city and killed more than 100,000 civilians. The firebombing is the climax of this sweeping novel by Epstein (writing, Columbia Univ.; The Painter from Shanghai), but the story is really about the interconnected lives of several people and their families, both Japanese and American. At the center is Yoshi, a young woman with a fragile, glamorous mother and a traditional, contractor father, but there is also Cam Richards, an American pilot downed in the Doolittle Raid of 1942; his young wife, Lacy; and Anton, a successful architect responsible for modernizing Tokyo, but then later called on by the U.S. Army to help destroy it. There is also Anton's son Billy, who grew up in Japan and years later returns as an Occupation soldier. VERDICT This harrowing novel of destruction and creation will appeal to fans of historical fiction. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, 9/24/12.]—Shaunna E. Hunter, Hampden-Sydney Coll. Lib., VA
Publishers Weekly
In Epstein’s expansive novel, American and Japanese lives converge and diverge in wartime. The novel follows the cultured Yoshi, a trilingual musician and product of a mismatched marriage—her mother a troubled, Westernized beauty; her father a working-class traditionalist. At the onset of WWII, young Yoshi, living alone with her mother in Japan, receives a ring from her father, who is living abroad. The ring once belonged to a young American pilot whose fate Yoshi’s father may be tied to. As the war escalates, Yoshi survives the Americans’ firebombing that obliterates Tokyo with “a roar so deafening that the screaming world went quiet.” After the war is over, Yoshi, working as a piano player in a brothel meets Billy, a shy GI carrying his own burden. Billy brings Yoshi closer to a new life—and to painful truths about her past and the original owner of her ring. From unspeakable wartime atrocities to the intricacies of courtships, friendships, and illicit affairs, Epstein’s second novel (after The Painter from Shanghai) is bursting with characters and locales. Yet painful, authentic (Epstein has lived and worked in Asia), and exquisite portraits emerge of the personal impact of national conflicts—and how sometimes those conflicts can be bridged by human connections. Agent: Elizabeth Sheinkman, WME Entertainment (formerly with Curtis Brown, U.K.). (Mar.)
Jennifer Egan
“Jennifer Cody Epstein’s triumphant second novel is a big, visceral, achingly humane portrait of wartime Japan and several Americans charged with building and destroying it. The sweep of Epstein’s vision is matched by her empathetic attention to the smallest details in the lives of the people who inhabit it.”
John Burnham Schwartz
“Beautifully researched and evoked, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment brings to haunting, dramatic life one of the most destructive acts of warfare ever perpetrated. In its passion and sweep, this lovely book does artful justice to the profound, contradictory connections between victims and victors, public histories and private lives.”
Hillary Jordan
“With the drama and sweep of The English Patient and a rich, painterly sensibility all her own, Jennifer Cody Epstein has created an indelible portrait of the war in the Pacific, seen through the eyes of six characters whose stories will haunt you long after the final brush stroke.”
Angela Davis-Gardner
“Jennifer Cody Epstein depicts the firebombing of Tokyo and concurrent events in unflinching but delicately rendered detail. Immaculately researched and deeply imagined, this is an astonishing novel whose battles and intimate encounters alike carry the force of electric jolt. I have never read anything else like it.”
Debra Dean
“I dare you to read this and not be swept up. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is shocking and delicate in equal measure.”
O Magazine - Amy Shearn
“The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is a page-turner thanks to its high-stakes adventure, torrid love affairs and characters so real they seem to follow you around. And in the end, this gripping novel asks us not just to consider a lost chapter of a famous war but also to explore what it means to be lucky—and what it means to be loved.”
Amy Shearn - O Magazine
“A page-turner thanks to its high-stakes adventure, torrid love affairs and characters so real they seem to follow you around. And in the end, this gripping novel asks us not just to consider a lost chapter of a famous war but also to explore what it means to be lucky—and what it means to be loved.”
Megan O'Grady - Vogue
The Gods of Heavenly Punishment showcases war's bitter ironies as well as its romantic serendipities.”
Kirkus Reviews
An epic novel about a young Japanese girl during World War II underscores the far-reaching impact that the decisions of others can have. Epstein (The Painter from Shanghai, 2008), who once lived and worked in Japan, presents a gripping story that centers around Yoshi Kobayashi, the product of an arranged marriage. Her father is a builder of common ancestry, and Hana, her mother, is a British-educated descendant of samurais. Hana doesn't fit into either world, and her feelings of abandonment are reflected in the way she raises her daughter, who learns three languages and piano at a very early age. Cam, a stutterer who's worked hard to overcome his disability, is married to his college sweetheart. His dreams of flying come true when he joins the Army Air Force and is assigned to James Doolittle's squadron. Billy Reynolds has spent his youth in Japan and is keenly aware that he's different. Fodder for the bullies at school, Billy loves photography, and when he receives a camera for his 12th birthday, he begins to document what he sees. His architect father, Anton, has designed many of the cutting-edge buildings cropping up in prewar Tokyo. But with the advent of war, many things change. The family leaves Japan, and Anton becomes involved in a military project that ultimately destroys what he's helped create. The author thoughtfully describes the hellish realities of war: the lack of tolerance for, and unwillingness to understand, other cultures; the universal pain of loss and human suffering; the brutality of mankind as lives are torn asunder. She infuses her narrative with many decent, strong characters who, in the end, manage to survive the tragedies of war and build new lives. Readers, particularly those who enjoy WWII fiction, will appreciate this story.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393089738
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
03/04/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
844,090
File size:
3 MB

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