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THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT: A Novel ~Jennifer Cody Epstein


The horrendous atrocities of war and the delicate strength of the human spirit are all wrapped up in this novel about the firebombing of Tokyo during World War II.  THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT is a work of art and beauty and I will read it again to ease the tensions which continue to cross my mind and disrupt my awareness.

“I dare you to read this and not be swept up. THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT is shocking and delicate in equal measure.”  Debra Dean, author, of THE MADONNAS Of LENINGRAD (on the book jacket)

This is the story of Yoshi and how war and a host of people will direct her experience of war and lead to her survival.  She is the daughter of a Japanese builder who has worked with an Architect to change the skyline of Tokyo (Yep! Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel is part of the story) and her mother who is the granddaughter of a Samurai Warrior who has a troubled past; she speaks many languages fluently.  It is the story of the architect who builds the new vision, then works on its destruction and how he knows Yoshi.  It is the story of Cam a fighter pilot who has wanted to fly an airplane his whole life; he is one of the downed pilots after an initial bombing raid.  On this list of Yoshi’s journey, I must include Billy who was born in Japan and returns as an occupation soldier for the rebuilding process.

I do not read the book covers or the promo pages that come with the tour book I agree to review.  I find that those words often color the read for me and I think they often tell far too much of the story line and cancel my minds ability to imagine and discover.  I quite often read each book twice, as I did for THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT.   The second read looks through eyes of what research the author acknowledges and the personal notes on hopes and expectations for the book and thanks to the editors and publishers.  This novel was extensively researched and then rendered with a divine stroke of the pen to give the reader a crystal understanding faceted with elegance and grace.  The book jacket uses the word meditation to describe this story telling and I would have to agree.

All the shocking horror of war and that experience is right there and in one page you know it, and by the next page the reader is moving on and integrating the disgust and shock into the child’s growth and understanding.   How could we ever have another war?  This story does not leave the mind; it stays put.

“Jennifer Cody Epstein depicts the firebombing of Tokyo and concurrent events in unflinching but delicately rendered detail.  Immaculately researched and deeply imagined, this is an astonishing novel whose battles and intimate encounters alike carry the force of electric jolt.  I have never read anything else like it.”  Angel Davis-Gardner, author of BUTTERFLY”S CHILD (book jacket)

tlclogoTLC online book tours and W.W. Norton & Company sent me a preview copy to review.  Thank you very much for this honor and privilege to read this book.  I am sure I will read it for a third time.

If you only read one book in 2013 make sure it is THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.  Thank you.  Donations also welcomed.

Related Reading:
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Hannah Coulter
Thirty Days With My Father (PTSD)
The Bequest of Big Daddy

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10 Responses to “THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT: A Novel ~Jennifer Cody Epstein”

  1. Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Patricia – I love this sentence that you wordsmithed:

    “This novel was extensively researched and then rendered with a divine stroke of the pen to give the reader a crystal understanding faceted with elegance and grace.”

    That alone is worth the price of admission. Thank you for pointing to another excellent read!
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted..A Rose By Any Other NameMy Profile

    patricia Reply:

    Laurie,
    I was just amazed by this book – where else would the words delicate and harsh appear together in a book about WWII and fire bombing?

  2. Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours Says:

    I can see why this book would stick with readers long after they read the final page.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and review this one for the tour.

    patricia Reply:

    Heather J
    I just loved reading this book – and I think I will read it again before the end of the year.
    Thank you for asking me – though I am hoping there are not so many books about war in a row on the next round of reads!

  3. Talon Says:

    I think I’ll pass on this one, Patricia. Yes – why war? Probably more about money than anything else…

    Nature is cruel enough at times-as deadly as any mass-produced weaponry…do we have to constantly deal with human cruelty?

    patricia Reply:

    Talon,
    I do not think I can read another book about war very soon – but this was a fabulous read and the author’s skill was quite something.

    I think I have to pass on any more war reads for awhile. I have another one to go for the 28th Then I need a love story or good family saga! :)

  4. Sam Juliano Says:

    This is quite a sterling recommendation Patricia! And this is a subject that is withing my wheelhouse of interest to say the least. You paint a persuasive portrait here of inspiration and perseverance. I will now research the work of Ms. Epstein. Beautiful post!

    patricia Reply:

    Sam,
    Thank you for your kind words – it was a great read and I have already given 2 personal copies away to family members
    Most of the people I suggest it too say – no I do not want to read about war and WWII right now….
    I think they will be missing something

    My architect I think will like the story because it includes the building of Frank Lloyd Wright’s new Tokyo Skyline and then the same architect has to teach the war machine how to destroy it….love and power…. how one become “the other”

  5. Alien Ghost Says:

    Hi Patricia,

    Several years ago I read “Los Zarpazos del Puma” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patricia_Verdugo), a book about the horrors of the dictatorship in my country.

    At the other hand, living in that dictatorship I could see how people’s mentality changed to survive, and even found the strength to laugh and keep going despite the harsh reality around.

    Raul
    Alien Ghost recently posted..ParenthoodMy Profile

    patricia Reply:

    Raul,
    This was a story where something good came out of the awful…HOPE
    It is very uplifting and yet I could totally understand the atrocities and still come back to HOPE

    I think A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA must be very like your dictatorship experience.

    These are both stories about people who did not identify and resisted