Wednesday, January 15, 2014

G49 Book Review of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein

Name of Book: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment

Author: Jennifer Cody Epstein

ISBN: 978-0-393-33531-6

Publisher: Norton

Type of book: Japan, 1935, 1942, 1943, 1945, 1962, six degrees separation, secrets, romance, America, Manchuria, Western-educated Japanese, bombing of Tokyo, history, WWII

Year it was published: 2013


A lush, exquisitely rendered meditation on war, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment tells the story of several families, American and Japanese, their loves and infidelities, their dreams and losses, and how they are all connected by one of the most devastating acts of war in human history.

In this evocative and thrilling epic novel, fifteen-year-old Yoshi Kobayashi, child of Japan’s New Empire, daughter of an ardent expansionist and a mother with a haunting past, is on her way home on a March night when American bombers shower her city with napalm—an attack that leaves one hundred thousand dead within hours and half the city in ashen ruins. In the days that follow, Yoshi’s old life will blur beyond recognition, leading her to a new world marked by destruction and shaped by those considered the enemy: Cam, a downed bomber pilot taken prisoner by the Imperial Japanese Army; Anton, a gifted architect who helped modernize Tokyo’s prewar skyline but is now charged with destroying it; and Billy, an Occupation soldier who arrives in the blackened city with a dark secret of his own. Directly or indirectly, each will shape Yoshi’s journey as she seeks safety, love, and redemption.


The characters are all incredibly complex and richly detailed. While we see a few through others' eyes, they aren't complete pictures. I'll do my best to describe the important ones. There is Yoshi and her mother Hana. (I have to admit that Hana was my favorite.) Hana is intelligent, Western-educated and is a descendant of Samurai. She has an unhappy marriage and isn't the type to be satisfied easily. Yoshi is Hana's daughter and she happens to be strong, romantic, sweet, resourceful and does what is right. There is also Cam that appealed to me. He is the soldier that has a problem with stuttering and seems to be a kind and decent guy. Anton is an architect and is described as hiding his inner self in a turtle shell, not letting anyone see his inner thoughts and emotions. Billy is Anton's son and is a soldier. He seems to be a reflection of Anton in terms of creativity, goodness and kindness, as well as having a heavy secret that might potentially get him in trouble.


Actions affect others.


The book is written in third person narrative from what seems to be everyone's point of view. The first few chapters take place in 1930s in New York when Cam meets and falls in love with Lacy, while the next chapter focuses on Yoshi's and Anton's family in Japan during the same time period where the reader meets important characters and sees the same incident occuring from multiple points of views. From then we move on to WWII 1942 and each whole chapter is from a character's point of view up until the bombing, then comes the after-war and after 1945 the story then jumps into 1962 as a few loose ends are tied up a bit, although I can't help but wonder what happened to these particular characters after 1962. The strand that ties everyone together is Yoshi and her family, and its not until the very end does the reader then learn of how these things resolve.

Author Information:




twitter username

member since
December 2007

About this author

She also wrote The Painter of Shanghai


I've won this book almost a year ago, and on January 39th, 2013 I received it. I feel embarrassed to say that other books and duties got in the way of me reading this book, but now I managed to finish it and I have to say that I was very impressed with the writing, characters and plot and all turned out to be incredibly addictive for me, the character of Yoshi's mother and Billy the soldier in particular. I was also impressed that the scene wasn't forced on a reader and I felt as if I was actually living and seeing the 1930s, 1940s of America and Japan. The chapters do tend to be on the long side, but the dialogue and description were so engaging that I barely noticed the pages flying by. I have a difficult time in coming up with the way to describe this book, but its a way of showing how actions from elsewhere tend to ultimately affect us the humans. Out of a group of people in this book, Yoshi only meets a few before WWII begins, but ultimately all will have impact on her and her life. I guess its sort of a butterfly effect is best way to describe it.

Quick notes: I won this book on thus this review will appear in its entirety on goodreads as well as the blog. This is for TLC Book Tour

Jennifer Cody Epstein’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, January 13th:  No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, January 13th:  Now is Gone – giveaway
Tuesday, January 14th:  A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, January 14th:  Kritter’s Ramblings
Wednesday, January 15th:  Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, January 16th:  Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Friday, January 17th:  The Best Books Ever
Sunday, January 19th:  Writer Unboxed - author guest post
Tuesday, January 21st:  Bookish Ardour
Wednesday, January 22nd:  Bookfoolery
Thursday, January 23rd:  She Treads Softly
Friday, January 24th:  A Reader of Fictions
Monday, January 27th:  Bloggin’ Bout Books
Tuesday, January 28th:  Books are the New Black
Wednesday, January 29th:  Book-a-licous Mama
Thursday, January 30th:  Kahakai Kitchen
Monday, February 3rd:  The Feminist Texican [Reads]
Tuesday, February 4th:  Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, February 5th:  Bibliotica
Thursday, February 6th:  Lavish Bookshelf

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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