Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto

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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. (Submitted by Pippa)

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Bodrik and His Adventures by Marta Styk

Image result for bodrik and his adventuresI came across this book because I happened to have the pleasure of meeting the author, Marta Styk. She passionately told me what the book is about and how the main character, a dog named Bodrik, was an actual dog that Marta and her husband, Igor, used to own. It was easy to fall in love with Bodrik when I was reading a book: a curious, kind, and loyal animal who loves his human family and world in general. Bodrik runs away from a farm to see a glimpse of the city life which turns out to be not all glitter after all. There is a happy ending and Bodrik goes back to what he likes most: rural life-style and his beloved owners. Great book to read with little ones! (Submitted by Mariya)

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Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

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Life After Life – Does the course of your life depend on fate or do you have control based on the choices you make?  Ursula Todd is born on a snowy winter day in 1910 .. and then dies before she can take a breath.  Or does she? The very same day, she is born, the doctor arrives in time, and Ursula lives.  We follow Ursula’s childhood, adolescence, and adulthood as Kate Atkinson weaves in key historical events from the early to mid 20th century – World War I, the Spanish influenza epidemic, and then World War II, both in London during the Blitz and Germany in the ‘30s and ‘40s.  We witness Ursula’s birth and death over and over again — in each timeline she makes different decisions that lead to wildly different life paths. Or is it fate acting upon her?  A highly enjoyable read for fans of British historical fiction and alternative histories. The audiobook, read by Fenella Woolgar, brings the characters to life. (Submitted by Beth)

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Silence by Shusaku Endo

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Originally published in 1966, then in translation in 1969, this book has gained recent popularity due to the release of the feature film of the same name.  This fictional account of the life of a Jesuit priest in 1640’s Japan is a story that depicts the battle between religious faith and doubt.  The “silence” of the title refers to God’s presumed silence to the suffering of the protagonist and those that by association are persecuted by Japanese authorities.  The conflict the protagonist faces is both internal and external.  The underlying irony of this story is twofold with the protagonist viewing his mission in Japan at first as truly righteous.  He does this even in the face of his former mentor and the Japanese authorities pointing out that he is an outsider presuming that he knows what is best for the Japanese by preaching about salvation and in doing so leading those that follow to persecution and death.  The other irony which is not overtly mentioned is that although the priest is condemning the Japanese for their persecution of Christians in Japan at the same time in Christian Europe heretics were being persecuted for not adhering to what was thought as the right form of Christianity.  Although this book is set in Medieval Japan it is not an overly historic work.  One learns more about this time period by reading Clavell’s Shogun in comparison; however this is not the point of the novel.  It is instead an internal religious discussion by the writer for readers to understand what it means to worship and have beliefs that are not shared by the majority and considered intrinsically foreign.  Silence by Shusaku Endo forces readers to confront how they may have given up their beliefs or ideals in order to conform and survive and get ahead in society. (Submitted by Shane)

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Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of An Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II

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This book is one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read.  Giving insight into the beauty, intelligence, and strength of Indian elephants. Even though jungle life in Burma could be dangerous, there were so many descriptions of joy and beauty that were completely transfixing. The dedication that the uzis and the elephant masters gave to the elephants is awe-inspiring. An easy read, that takes you far away, and yet still so close to home. Humanity and the animal world intertwined, doing good, and fighting evil. Loved it! (Submitted by Jamie)

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Annabel by Kathleen Winter

annabelThis book was hauntingly beautiful. It tells the story of a child, born in a remote Labradorean town in 1968, who is not quite male and not quite female. Winter’s storytelling is luminous and poignant as we grow up alongside Wayne (Annabel) in the cold, Canadian climate, privy to one family’s secrets. I’m still reeling from this story and it’s been years since I read it–time for a re-read! (Submitted by Meghan)

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Midnight Light: A Personal Journey to the North by Dave Bidini

midnight lightDave Bidini’s, Midnight Light, is a fun, offbeat, journey through Yellowknife and the surrounding area. Bidini had been at a bit of a cross roads in his writing career, looking for the topic for his next book while watching his newspaper work shrink as the industry as a whole struggled. In the midst of this, he took a short term gig with the Yellowknifer, Yellow Knife’s main paper. The resulting book is part travelogue, part ode to the newspaper industry, and part a series of vignettes featuring a cast of characters. The main through line for the book is formed by John McFadden, a Yellowknifer reporter who made national news after developing a difficult relationship with the local RCMP. This culminated in a trial for obstruction of justice. Midnight Light is a great read for fans of Canadiana, travel writing, and left me plotting a route north to see Yellowknife for myself. (Submitted by Shawn)

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