Although this is Shors second work of fiction, I read it last. Maybe that wasn’t such a great idea. I think the other books appealed to me far more than this World War II centered story line. Don’t get me wrong, for his writing his still brilliant, lyrical almost, right down to the beautiful ‘Japanese Haikus’ he presents the reader with. At the heart of the story is an old war-time theme; the Japanese are the enemy or are they? and the Americans are fighting to survive. The book begins with a peaceful scene on a hospital ship with an appropriately named vessel – ‘The Benevolence’. Benevolent no longer when betrayal occurs and the ship is torn in two by a giant torpedo, killing most but leaving nine survivors in total.
The story begins with their survival on an island in the South Pacific rim. The ship’s captain, jaded, depressed and blaming himself for this great loss tries to lead the rest of the survivors toward a hopeful future, when his wife gives him a gift that changes his life completely and brings him strength. Shors tries to bring a variety of elements into the story which sort of pales in comparison to the main love story developing between an American nurse and a Japanese prisoner of war, who is not really a prisoner here, but a patient. There is an African-American engineer and a little Fijian boy who develop an amazing bond whilst searching for the little boy’s father who is actually helping the Americans win the war. Their conversations are sweet, poignant and funny. In the midst is this silent, raging, belligerent being who is the thorn in the proverbial side. As the story unfolds we are taken on a journey of Shors recurring themes i.e. love, healing and compassion. I have said it before and I will say it again, John has an amazing understanding of Asian culture, so the book is fantastic that way. I just loved ‘Beneath a Marble Sky’, ‘Wishing Trees’ and ‘Dragon House’ more.