Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Color of the Sea By John Hamamura

Color of the Sea By John Hamamura

This story follows the life of Isamu (Sam) Hamada, beginning in pre-WWII when Sam leaves his mother and siblings in their family home in Hiroshima, Japan to join his alcoholic father working the cane fields of Hawaii. While on Hawaii, fate brings Sam and an old eccentric sensai together, and for many years, Sam painstaking studies the fine art of self-defense. Sam eventually leaves Hawaii for California, where he hopes to better himself by attending college. He learns that his marital arts training helps him deal with his struggle to be accepted into college, falling in love, dealing with the pain and discrimination brought on by America’s war with Japan, and his feeling of atonement after the war in war-torn Japan.

John Hamanura is a first rate talent, writing about a man torn between two passionate loves, two great cultures, and during a time when life was perhaps too complex for Japanese Americans. With lush details and power descriptions, Hamanura pulls you into his world until you are fully engaged, seeing the colors of the sea, feeling the sweat running down your face on a hot summer day, hearing the singsong rustle of sugar cane. The characters are real, passionate, and thoroughly persuasive. The plot is a tightly organized storyline of family life and love that begins to unravel as discrimination in America grows against them, then must suffer the horrors of war before the attack on Pearl Harbor, through the American-Japanese concentration camps, suffering on the battlefield, and finishing in post-war Japan.

I literally cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a book as much as this one. With this book, you’ll want to find a quiet spot in the garden, with no interruptions, and let yourself be lost in its precisely controlled style and voice. This is one of the finest novels I’ve read in years. Not since McEwan’s Atonement, has a story haunted me like this one, or left me with such an emotional impact.

If you enjoy beautiful prose, credible characters, and well-constructed plots, do yourself a huge favor: read this book.

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