*I received a free copy of this book, with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: A whisk-you-away, thought-provoking novel. Desert-dweller Meryl travels to Japan, returns a WWII flag, and brings home an understanding of life that opens her heart for the unexpected.
“In Japan…everywhere…red strings tie all people we meet together. Some strings are weak. Some have tangles. Some strong.”
Meryl–Vietnam War widow–misses her grown son, feels left out after her father’s recent marriage. A WWII Japanese flag falls into her hands. The gentle push of a love-struck professor starts her adventure–take the flag home. From the neon of Osaka, to the ancient capital Nara, to the forests of Akita, the trail follows a newspaper reporter, factory manager, ikebana teacher, a Matagi hunter and winds through Japanese culture, past and present. A story of shared humanity and love “in the simplest things.”
B. Jeanne Shibahara’s skillful narrative voice and comic touch bring joy to this truly heart-moving, transpacific story. There’s something in it for everyone, everywhere.
Ka-E-Ro-U Time to go Home is, nominally the story of Meryl’s journey from America through Japan to return a war flag to the family it belongs to, and in doing so find herself as well. In reality though, the novel is a gentle meander through the side streets and intimate spaces of Japanese (and American) lives.
Food, clothing, customs, landscapes and histories, all are examined – pored over, run through the fingers, sipped at, gazed at in awe, reminisced over – in loving detail by the author.
We do follow Meryl, lost and lonely after the death of her husband and her son flying the nest, as she seeks a new meaning and context for her life through travel, new people, new experiences. She seems simultaneously world-weary and naive at first, so it is lovely to see her slowly gain confidence and purpose as the world opens up for her.
As Meryl marches down the highway though, the reader takes detours into the lives of the other characters she meets: her son’s professor, her father, her sons colleagues and his Japanese students of English. Each has their own story, with it’s own quiet sorrow and simple beauty. Each slowly takes shape, like origami, as the words fold over each other.
Not a lot happens in terms of ‘plot’, other than what is already outlined in the blurb, as this isn’t really a book about actions and plot. Instead it is about thoughts, feelings and memories. It shows that our lives can be completely separate and different and yet there are threads of connection through our human emotions and experiences.
This books is ideal for anyone looking for a gently affectionate exploration of Japan and of a variety of different life stories linked to the country.
“Has Byron changed his plans and suddenly come home, Mrs. Quist?”
She moved her head from side to side.
Most everyone called her Meryl or Meryl Jeanne. But she was Mrs. Quist, Mrs. Peter Quist.
“Please…would you…look at…?”
She opened her envelope and pulled out a folded piece of thin cloth, discolored with age, stained in faded blood…a Japanese flag from WWII. There was writing on it in black ink.
– B. Jeanne Shibahara, KA-E-RO-U Time to go Home
KA-E-RO-U Time to go Home is available on Amazon right now!