It is written from two perspectives. One from a woman, Ruth living on an island off the West coast of Canada.
And the other from a young Japanese woman, Nao Yasutani
The book has many themes – but it is a book essentially about relationships.
The main relationship is the one that Ruth has with Nao, as she reads her diary when it washes up on the Canadian beach.
Whilst Nao is writing of the trauma of her life, and those around her, Ruth is drawn into concern and worry about her.
And in this is reflected Ruth’s own life, rather simple but very much part of the here and now on this lonely Canadian island.
This is where we discover her connection with her environment and the impact of global issues on it. Which makes this book also an environmental book.
Nao’s story is also centred on the people in her life. Her father Haruki #2, who is depressed and suicidal after losing his job.
Nao herself is depressed and suicidal as a result. She is also subjected to very cruel bullying from her classmates.
But she is a young woman with strength and humor – someone who we care about.
But it is her great grandmother Jiko, a Zen Buddhist nun, who delights us and who centres Nao.
The Zen Buddhist theme throughout the book imbues the book with a gentle, philosophical and sympathetic perspective.
The story of her great uncle Haruki #1, who was a kamikaze pilot in WW2 is also very interesting. An anti-war novel as well.
This book has beauty and warmth. And one that I will want to read again.
Jiko’s last words:
生 – to live
“For now…for the time being.”
I also like this quote in Appendix C: Rambling Thoughts
“The day the mountains move has come.
Or so I say, though no one will believe me.
The mountains were merely asleep for a while.
But in ages past, they had moved, as if they were on fire.
If you don’t believe me, that’s fine with me.
All I ask is that you believe this and only this,
That at this very moment, women are awakening from their deep slumber.
If I could but write entirely in the first person,
I, who am a woman.
If I could write entirely in the first person,
Yosano Akiko – These are the first lines from Yosano Akiko’s longer poem (Rambling Thoughts) which were first published in the inaugural issue of the feminist magazine Seito (Bluestocking), in September 1911.