Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Review: One Hundred Million Hearts by Kerri Sakamoto

Miyo has spent her whole life being cared for by her father so she is shocked after his death to find out how much of his life has been hidden from her. Leaving her lover and traveling to Japan with the stepmother she never knew she had, she meets her enigmatic younger half-sister Hana and comes face to face with a different picture of her father than she ever expected. Hana has discovered that their father was not just a soldier who never actually served in WWII, he was in fact a kamikaze pilot whose war ended before he could fulfil his destiny. All this new knowledge, combined with the potential that Miyo's mother was exposed to radiation during the war, thereby causing Miyo's physical problems, turns Miyo's world upside down.

This is a slow, elegaic, and oftentimes confusingly written novel. None of the characters inspired much sympathy, not Hana with her penchant for disappearances and unwillingness to really share; not Ryu, Hana's stoic boyfriend; not Setsuko, the emotionally cold stepmother; not David, Miyo's oddly off-kilter, possesive boyfriend; not Masao, the father obsessed with duty rather than love; and not even Miyo struggling to keep-up and unravel the mysteries everyone else has already discovered. There is just something cold and remote about this tale that even the surprise in the end doesn't humanize. Each of the characters seem so wrapped up in his or her own drama, to the exculsion of all other story threads, that they don't come together to provide a cogent whole. And while the themes of loss, sacrifice, and duty spiral throughout the story, they seem more reported on rather than felt through the characters' actions. Well-written but hard to connect to emotionally, this was not one of my favorite reads of the month.

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