Above the East China sea

Above the East China sea

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*Starred Review* Obon, the Buddhist festival of the dead, provides the frame for Bird's novel about two girls who live in the same place, the Okinawa Prefecture of Japan, but at different times. Tamiko, a 15-year-old schoolgirl, leaves home with her sister, Hatsuko, to take part in Japan's desperate, last-ditch defense against the Americans in 1945. More than 60 years later, Luz James, a part-Okinawan military brat living at Kadena Air Base, is grieving for her own sister, who was killed while serving with the air force in Afghanistan. Bird uses distinct voices to weave her narrative. Luz's voice convincingly captures a smart but troubled contemporary teen, while Tamiko's voice reflects her place in a very different culture. Readers won't soon forget Tamiko's searing depiction of her experiences during the Battle of Okinawa, when more than one-third of the local population was killed or committed suicide. Links between the two girls, hinted at early on, crystallize as Luz's quest to learn more about her ancestors takes her deeper into the past and into the traditions that still exert a hold on daily Okinawan life. Bird, whose other novels include the well-received Yokota Officers Club (2001), has delivered a multilayered and utterly involving work with plenty of grist for book discussions. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews

Released by Alfred A. Knopf Inc. on Tuesday, May 27, 2014

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