Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Review: Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms

Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms, by Fumiyo Kouno, 2007, Last Gasp, 103 pages, $9.99

This short collection of three linked stories about young people living in Hiroshima hides some real power behind its appearance as light romance.

The first story is set in 1955, the second in 1987, and the third in 2004. The characters in all three stories are dealing with the aftereffects of the atomic bomb; the smoky tendrils of the mushroom cloud may have long since departed, but the radiation poisoning and emotional damage still linger, tinging every interaction and darkening the horizon of everyone's future.

(click to enlarge; read right-to-left)

This still does not feel like a heavy, difficult book. For the most part it's enjoyable to read, full of sweet moments and lovely characters. But merely knowing where it is taking place is enough to place a shroud over what should be the happy lives of these people. Moreover, every so often the bomb's effects come to the forefront and the book takes your breath away. It's quite amazing how the book successfully walks that line.

Kouno, in her afterword, discusses how for most of her life she felt disconnected from the bomb and its effects on the survivors. With this book, she confronted the issue and it is clear that this story became something that she simply needed to tell. The book never feels preachy, but it certainly forces the reader to focus on this issue and raises his or her level of understanding about what the people of Hiroshima have endured.

(click to enlarge)
BUY IT: From Last Gasp here or from Amazon here: Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms

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