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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 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, ...
“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.
Posted February 14, 2014
This book follows a young Japanese girl Yoshi, and various characters that either directly or indirectly impact her life, which is shattered by the US napalm attack on Tokyo in 1945.
The bombing was truly tragic and barbaric. However I do know that the Japanese government/army was out of control. They'd become greedy bullies, trying to get more and more land and resources, by any means necessary. I've read about what they did in Nanking, and it was hideous.
I have loved this book from page one. I love the ease with which the author writes, making it an easy yet captivating read. And perhaps part of the reason that I love this book is that so much of it takes place in Japan-- a place that I grew up hearing about, given that my family lived there for three years before I was born. I grew up speaking common Japanese phrases and eating with chopsticks, and surrounded by Japanese decorations and dolls and books. So this book was a very comfortable fit for me.
I loved so many of the characters. Yoshi was a treasure-- smart, beautiful and hopeful. Cam was a charmer. Billy Reynolds and Cam's brother Mike were all likable. There's also some difficult characters-- those who have good and bad sides to them. Hana, Kenji, Anton and his wife. This book is full of complicated characters that can't be easily characterized as "good" or "bad" or "likable"-- although some do seem to turn "bad" over time.
Yoshi's mother Hana doted on her when she was a girl, thinking she was absolutely perfect. But time and perhaps mental illness began to wear her down, and Yoshi found herself alone, even when her mother was there.
My final word: The author has won me over with her writing. Her description of Japan, the people and the culture is beautiful! Yoshi is a strong character, not giving in and losing herself to all that life has dealt her. A number of wonderful, positive male characters as well (sometimes books with strong female characters portray men as villains or dolts). This book brings the tragedy of the Tokyo bombing (as well as other areas of Japan) to light-- a revelation for those unfamiliar with this time period. I think this whole period in history has been downplayed in our schools, to make the US appear to be victims of the Pearl Harbor bombing without really recognizing the hideousness of our own deeds perpetrated on civilians following that event.
A powerful story beautifully told.
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Posted April 1, 2013
Posted April 11, 2014
It was an intriguing time, and though I found the jumping around of the different stories hard to follow, I enjoyed the book and learning more about this time in our history.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 22, 2014
This is a story that will bring to light so much that as American students, we didn’t know as much detail about: the 1945 bombing in Tokyo, the Americans who were pretty much sent on suicide missions because they didn’t have enough gas fuel to bring them to safety, and the horrible camps that the surviving pilots had to endure.
1962. Having never been to Tokyo before, it was quite detailing and horrific, that it made me feel as if I was there alongside the author and her characters.
What I loved most, was that in the midst of such turmoil, tragedy, and destruction, that love and hope prevails. Both sides of the war are shown: the lives of those in America (past and present day), and those in Tokyo (past and present). The story does fluctuate between past/present, lapsed years, and the lives of Americans and Japanese characters in the storylines. It is interesting to see how they all become connected and that hope is what brings people together, weaving through the lives of others.
It’s a very slow book, with many characters and events, but the author does this in a way that helps the reader understand what’s going on, despite that. It’s a great read for those who love war history, historical fiction, relationships about love and resiliency, and even to just read a story of a war, with a different point of view.
Posted September 26, 2013
Despite the sad topic, this story is told beautifully from different perspectives.
Not knowing much about Japan during this time period the rich details and descriptions really threw me into the time, place, event and aftermath.
A few photos are included at the start of some chapters which bring a nice touch to the story.
Posted September 16, 2013
This is a bonus book. There is two stories combined in one. The story of the Americans and the Story of the Japanese. Some of the stories in this book are very heavy topics, infidelity, post traumatic stress, and war crimes, to name a few. The book also is about survival and courage to live and move ahead with your lives. World War II is one of my favorite eras to read about and this book was unlike any other I had read before. There is a lot of history being shared throughout the pages, a lot of it I had never read of before in a World War II book.
I was anxious as I read each chapter to see how the stories would weave together. I enjoyed getting to know all the characters and loved each of their stories individually. I kept trying to put the pieces together and just didn’t always get the clues. The book kept me reading knowing that I had to figure it all out.
Jennifer Cody Epstein is an author that I will be looking for more from. If you enjoy World War II era books this is a unique book that I will recommend you read.
Posted June 25, 2013
The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is an intriguing look at war and survival, and the ability of the human spirit to endure. The main conflict in the story is the bombing of Tokyo during World War II.
Yoshi is a young woman at the center of the story. Her father is a major builder in the city and her mother with a troubled past who was the granddaughter of a Samurai warrior. There are several supporting characters in the story who each add a layer of intensity to this epic tale and help to unfold the mystery within the story.
Expertly researched and beautifully written, this novel sweeps a wide span to give readers an indepth look at the atrocities of war and the impact upon those who survived. There are several threads to follow, but they are expertly woven and the plot is easy to follow. This novel reaches deep into one’s soul to fill readers with a realm of emotions. It deals with issues of conscience, forgiveness, love, and endurance. A fascinating read beautifully rendered.
Posted May 31, 2013
The horrendous atrocities of war and the delicate strength of the human spirit are all wrapped up in this novel about the firebombing of Tokyo during World War II. THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT is a work of art and beauty and I will read it again to ease the tensions which continue to cross my mind and disrupt my awareness.
“I dare you to read this and not be swept up. THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT is shocking and delicate in equal measure.” Debra Dean, author, of THE MADONNAS Of LENINGRAD (on the book jacket)
This is the story of Yoshi and how war and a host of people will direct her experience of war and lead to her survival. She is the daughter of a Japanese builder who has worked with an Architect to change the skyline of Tokyo (Yep! Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel is part of the story) and her mother who is the granddaughter of a Samurai Warrior who has a troubled past; she speaks many languages fluently. It is the story of the architect who builds the new vision, then works on its destruction and how he knows Yoshi. It is the story of Cam a fighter pilot who has wanted to fly an airplane his whole life; he is one of the downed pilots after an initial bombing raid. On this list of Yoshi’s journey, I must include Billy who was born in Japan and returns as an occupation soldier for the rebuilding process.
I do not read the book covers or the promo pages that come with the tour book I agree to review. I find that those words often color the read for me and I think they often tell far too much of the story line and cancel my minds ability to imagine and discover. I quite often read each book twice, as I did for THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT. The second read looks through eyes of what research the author acknowledges and the personal notes on hopes and expectations for the book and thanks to the editors and publishers. This novel was extensively researched and then rendered with a divine stroke of the pen to give the reader a crystal understanding faceted with elegance and grace. The book jacket uses the word meditation to describe this story telling and I would have to agree.
All the shocking horror of war and that experience is right there and in one page you know it, and by the next page the reader is moving on and integrating the disgust and shock into the child’s growth and understanding. How could we ever have another war? This story does not leave the mind; it stays put. More can be found on Patricias Wisdom
Posted May 16, 2013
In fact, the publisher's summary is a little misleading. Epstein has crafted a novel that moves back and forth between multiple third-person narratives. Throughout, she keeps the book moving forward in time as she shifts settings, from 1935 Hamburg, New York to 1962 Los Angeles and gradually begins to intertwine her characters.
I suppose the novel could be called "sweeping" moving as it does through time and back and forth across the Pacific. Curiously, I never felt like I was being swept up in a massive story; Epstein makes the novel very much the intimate stories of the people caught up in the war between Japan and the United States. Without casting judgment, Epstein uses her characters along with many real-life characters to explore the atrocities of war. Having just read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, I was surprised to find myself back in Manchuria during the Japanese occupation but it also made me not ready to read about the torture of soldiers, a direction I was certain, at one point, the book was headed in. Instead, Epstein gives the reader only what is necessary at that point then moves on, only to smack me down later with the horror of the firebombing of Tokyo.
The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is just the kind of historical fiction book I love - a new look at a time in history you might have thought had already been covered from every angle with an interesting blend of characters and a solid foundation in the facts.