Canada Reads, 2017
I was excited about reading this book based on the summary -a real life biography by a man whose paternal grandmother was a Japanese-Canadian woman who lost everything to the Canadian government during WWII and his maternal grandfather who had been a Japanese POW. It boggled my mind thinking, "what are the chances that this could even happen in one family" let alone how they would forgive. I expected an amazing story about how these two grandparents-in-law would get beyond their horrible ordeals to teach Forgiveness to their children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, I was disappointed as I found that the first half of the book detailing the terrible ordeals of the Japanese woman and the POW rather weakly written... I think the author was trying to write it like a fictional novel to add flavour (maybe) but, while the ordeals were horrible, the writing didn't work for me. And once the war was over, the story veered away from the grandparents and moved on to the parents and the author himself which I also found distracting... I was much more interested (and expected from the title) to hear about the journey the grandparents had to come to a point to be able to Forgive what they'd endured and become a tight-knit family.... how did they learn the lessons they gifted to their grandson? So, a great topic and an absolutely amazing tribute to two very significant Canadian heroes, in my mind, but, unfortunately for me, not particularly well-written or captivating.
A must read for high school students! We need to learn about this sad part of Canadian history. Mark Sakomoto writes eloquently and shares with great compassion his love and respect for two very important people in his life.
This book was surprisingly poorly edited and written. Even though it was able to effectively convey the story, it was not properly organized and there seem to be too many characters mentioned to follow along. I think this book had lots of potentials to tell a powerful story but it did not use it. Although this book does not use great writing stance, I think this does teach people a very important lesson; war does not benefit anyone. In Ralph's case, he is imprisoned in a POW camp and endures labor, hunger, and disease. I think this does accurately interpret the situation of an American POW in a Japanese camp. Meanwhile, a Japanese family is forced out by the government and sent to work in the fields at Alberta for a meager wage.
I rated this book a 7/10 because of it's lackluster writing stance and I believe that it could almost have been a rushed book. The editor does a poor job of organizing paragraphs and train of thought. I think this book could have been a lot better than it was.
I sincerely wish this book had been better written and/or edited. The stories are compelling and well-told in themselves but the relationships are often bewildering. Basically, the author's mother was the daughter of Ralph MacLean, a Canadian POW. His dad (Ron?) was a first-generation Japanese-Canadian, son of Mitsue Sakamoto and her husband Hideo. Other names and relatives drift in and out with little sense of their importance in the narrative.
/Submitted by Pippa/
Sakamoto’s account of his maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother is compelling reading. Both experienced the effects of World War 2 – his grandfather in a Japanese POW camp and his grandmother the hardships of BC’s forced relocation of its Japanese residents and citizens. We get a detailed look at their upbringing and lives, giving us tremendous insight into the times and character of these people, which is thoroughly engaging.
The book changes after the first half when the author begins his own story, particularly when he focuses on his mother’s journey into alcoholism and poverty, but it still leaves a deep impression on the reader. Instead of dealing with the theme ‘forgiveness’ between two people, in fact two families, with powerful reasons to hate each other, the subject is briefly glossed over. You’re left to assume they nobly put the past behind them when their children marry but are barely mentioned in the second half. Sakamoto is definitely not a great writer, some of his historical facts are incorrect, and the book feels disjointed, but I still recommend it as worth reading. It won the CBC’s Canada Reads in 2018 which says more for its champion, Jeanne Beker, than the book itself, but again, its content holds a strong message for us all.
This is the way history should be taught. Not some dry textbook account that leaves you unable to connect with the people involved, even if you sympathize with what they have been through. The fact that you are treated to both sides of the story, so to speak, is a bonus. I learned a lot from this book and highly recommend it. Really did not think it would be my kind of thing but I could not put it down.
I was pretty certain that I wouldn't like Forgiveness, this year's Canada Reads winner, as much as I liked another of the contenders, The Marrow Thieves. I am really pleasantly surprised to have been wrong in making this assumption! Mark Sakamoto's writing style is just lovely--descriptive but not too flowery or sentimental--and the story unfolds as if it was a novel. Furthermore, the subject matter is strikingly relevant to some current events, so it provides an opportunity for critical reflection as to how the past can repeat itself. Ultimately, this book promises a lesson in forgiveness, so it's not a downer, though the characters (the author's grandparents) endure awful hardships. This would be a great book for a book club discussion, or for anyone who has experienced trauma, and I just generally think it's a good book that most people would be able to get into, regardless of their usual reading preferences. See for yourself!
What a wonderful book. Thank you Mark Sakamoto for sharing 'your' story. I shed tears over the way the men were treated in the POW camp and more tears for the treatment of Canadian people of Japanese decent. I admire the strength and bravery of your ancestors. Sorry for your mother's decisions and the eventual consequences. You are who you are because of those who came before you.
Thank you Mr. Sakamoto for sharing your grandparents’, as well as your own, stories: one grandparent whose whole family suffered racial hatred when they took the bold step to move from Japan to Canada. If that weren’t enough, a few short years later, were forcibly interned when WWII broke out. The other grandparent, who fought in the war against the Japanese when he was stationed in Hong Kong, experienced all the atrocities that goes with being at war. Most can guess that these two sets of grandparents end up linked in the form of a grandson named Mark and Forgiveness is the story of how that came to be.
As far as World War II is concerned I knew about the Germans, lots about the Germans. I knew the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour. I knew China was involved. But I had no idea that Japan invaded Hong Kong and that there were Canadian troops stationed there. Hong Kong is where Sakamoto’s grandfather was stationed. I liked how the story delves into parts of our past that aren’t at the forefront of our history books. It certainly was an eye opener for me. It inspired me to research more about the relationship between China and Japan and why the Japanese entered the war on the side of the Germans, especially given the fact that in WW I they were on the Allied side, assisting the British and later the Americans by offering troops, naval assets, etc.
My attention wasn’t as riveted towards the last half, but the grandparents’ excellent story made my worldview a little bigger.
Canada Reads winner for 2018. How to forgive the unforgivable?
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