The Gods of Heavenly Punishment
by Jennifer Cody Epstein
W.W. Norton & Co. (2014)
The Gods of Heavenly Punishment spans the lives of multiple people before, during, and after WWII. The range of characters includes Japanese and American architects, ex-pats living in Japan, educated women who don’t fit in anywhere, American soldiers responding to Pearl Harbor, and more.
Yoshi, who seems to be the main character, is a child when we first meet her. She’s bright (knows three languages at a young age) and beautiful, and she’s the product of an unhappy marriage. Nursing her mentally ailing mother, she fends for herself during WWII in Japan.
Might SPOIL the plot here, y’all, so proceed at your own risk:
I’m trying to sum up this book, but finding it difficult. The reason I think is that the beginning of the novel is so scattered. It took me a long time to figure out the connection between the American family in the US and the Japanese family in Japan. And honestly the connection seems weak even after reading it. The ring that Cam is wearing when he’s murdered by Kenji, ends up on Yoshi’s finger and eventually leads her to find out that her father was a war criminal. Okay…? What impact does that have on her? She goes to find Cam’s wife and return the ring to her. And then the story ends.
Many novels have loose threads in the beginning, but they are all supposed to tie up in the end and offer some greater truth or understanding from that knot (if you’ll excuse my extended metaphor). So, I found it really frustrating when that wasn’t the case in this book.
Part of the reason I didn’t love this book was that I thought it was going to be about Japanese-American and Caucasian-American race relations during WWII. Though there was some mention of it, the characters took it as a fact rather than discussing it or thinking deeply about it. That whole horrible part of history is sort of glossed over in this book, which was really interesting considering the author’s choice of characters/settings. Anyway, you can see what other (arguably smarter) people thought of it in the links below!
Jennifer Cody Epstein is the author of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment and the international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, Self, Mademoiselle andNBC, and has worked in Hong Kong, Japan and Bangkok, Thailand.
Jennifer Cody Epstein’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Monday, January 13th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, January 13th: Now is Gone – giveaway
Tuesday, January 14th: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, January 14th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Wednesday, January 15th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Friday, January 17th: The Best Books Ever
Sunday, January 19th: Writer Unboxed – author guest post
Tuesday, January 21st: Bookish Ardour
Wednesday, January 22nd: Bookfoolery
Thursday, January 23rd: She Treads Softly
Friday, January 24th: A Reader of Fictions
Wednesday, January 29th: Book-a-licous Mama
Thursday, January 30th: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, February 4th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, February 5th: Bibliotica
Thursday, February 6th: Lavish Bookshelf
Thursday, February 13th: The Feminist Texican [Reads]
Friday, February 14th: Books are the New Black