Rating – 3.5/5
Meryl, a Vietnam war widow, feels forlorn as her son has moved to Japan, and her aged father has remarried. A WWII Japanese flag, the last message of its bearer scribbled on it in his blood dried long ago, falls into her hands. She wants to return the flag to the soldier’s family but is reluctant to step out of her world.
After a gentle nudge from a love-struck professor and a not-so-subtle push from her father and cousin, she sets out to return the flag to where it belongs—Japan. Along the way, she meets many people – all of whom help her in reaching her destination one step closer while also helping her find herself.
KA-E-RO-U Time to Go Home by B. Jeanne Shibahara, apart from being a self-exploration tale also provides a no-frills look into the fascinating, timeless culture and traditions of Japan along with a glimpse into its modern cities.
I wouldn’t say the book was gripping from the start. The initial 50-60 pages were tough to get into. The writing was choppy and had a clipped tone. However, here and there would burst forth splendid expressions, which persuaded me to keep on reading. Gradually, my not-so-favorable first impression of the book turned into a favorable one. Shibahara’s prose turned lyrical and soon started flowing well, and to her credit, she maintained the standard till the end.
The reason (in my humble opinion) why KA-E-RO-U Time to Go Home has a bumpy start is the setting up of multiple characters in rapid succession . However, once Shibahara has introduced most of her characters, she takes her time to delve into their backstories which make for fascinating reading and provide the much-needed depth to this character-driven story and warms me up to it.
Mind you; all the characters are excellently developed and not even one felt redundant to me. The budding relationship between the love-struck professor, Professor Gieshen and Freckles, Meryl’s pet dog was well-written. I liked how Gieshen fumbled when talking to Meryl, his thoughts clearly spelling out his embarrassment and his eagerness to be with Meryl. I liked several other characters as well. However, mentioning everyone’s name here may consume the entire review space. 😛
KA-E-RO-U Time to Go Home is essentially a story of finding oneself, and the journey of doing so is eloquently penned by Shibahara. In the latter half of the book, it becomes an ode to love and to Japan especially. She beautifully captures the slowly decaying age-old Japanese customs.
In the latter half, her writing becomes deeply evocative. Meryl’s transformation from an indecisive, unassertive, grieving widow to a person willing to get past her grief and accept love with an open mind was heart-touching. Further, there are deeply reflective thoughts about war and peace, which are worth pondering over.
Consider borrowing this book from the library.
I would say KA-E-RO-U Time to Go Home by B. Jeanne Shibahara makes for a good read if character-driven stories set in Asian culture are your preferred genre. Just sit tight through the first couple of pages.
The author provided me a digital copy of her book. I opted to provide an honest review.