Book Review: Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto

Title: Forgiveness
Author: Mark Sakamoto
My Rating: ♥♥♥

This is the third book that I have read from the Canada Reads 2018 longlist. So far, I wouldn’t be able to back any of them as clear winner material, but you never do now how it will go in the debates. I can say that this was probably the one so far that fits the theme best “One Book to Open Your Mind.”

I think this is a good book, and parts of it very certainly did open my eyes and my mind to things I didn’t know much about. Mark Sakamoto has an interesting family background. He starts the story during World War II, with the intertwining stories of his maternal and paternal granparents. His father’s family were Japanese, and were sent to the Prairies to do forced hard labour during that period. It was really very hard for them, and a very eye-opening story.

Meanwhile, his mother’s father, Ralph MacLean was a young soldier sent off to Asia to fight in World War II. He becomes a prisoner of war in a Japanese POW camp in Hong Kong, for over 4 years.

The book does a really good job of describing the harrowing conditions that were faced both by the Japanese family and by the prisoners of war. And I can see what Sakamoto was going for by telling this story and trying to intertwine those two perspectives together. However, somehow the two stories just didn’t really mesh together.

What I would really have loved to see in this book would be more of the actual forgiveness that the grandparents had, or maybe that they didn’t have, for each other. There aren’t really many actual interactions between the two families at all in the book. Did they approve of their children dating and eventually getting married? Were they all able to put the war behind them and look towards the future, or were things always a bit strained?

Anyway, so my conclusion for this review is that the book was interesting, and I think it would be a good one for “One Book to Open Your Mind.” But I really think that the author could have done more with his really interesting story here.

Coincidentally, I also recently read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which was about a Chinese boy and his love for a Japanese girl in Seattle, also during World War II. It offers quite a different perspective than Forgiveness, but I really do recommend it if you’re interested in the Asian side of World War II.

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