The Gods of Heavenly Punishment

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment

4.5 9
by Jennifer Cody Epstein
     
 

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A young woman’s journey through the 1945 firebombing of Tokyo, and the stories of three Americans who shape her fate.See more details below

Overview

A young woman’s journey through the 1945 firebombing of Tokyo, and the stories of three Americans who shape her fate.

Editorial Reviews

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.)
Amy Shearn - O Magazine
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Megan O'Grady - Vogue
“The Gods of Heavenly Punishment showcases war's bitter ironies as well as its romantic serendipities.”
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.”
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:
9780393071573
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
03/11/2013
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
1,174,005
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.20(d)

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