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And these are they. My final moments. They say a warrior must always be mindful of death, but I never imagined that it would find me like this . . .
Japanese teenager Sora is diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Lonely and isolated, Sora turns to the ancient wisdom of the samurai for guidance and comfort. But he also finds hope in the present; through the internet he finds friends that see him, not just his illness. This is a story of friendship and acceptance, and testing strength in an uncertain future.
This is not an easy book to read, and I freely confess I wept at the end of it. Not that surprising, given the subject material.
Having said this, it is a beautiful book. Gentle and thoughtful, filled with humour and grace. I loved the samurai koans that are shared freely, and enjoyed the developing friendship described on and offline. The family relationships are more difficult to envisage – perhaps because we’re seeing them through teen eyes, the mother isn’t to me a fully fleshed out character, it’s hard to know what she’s really going through. (I think I have the tiniest inkling of what she’s going through for my own part.)
I wish though, that this was an illustrated book. That might seem an odd thing to say, but I think that if you read it you’ll see why. (No spoilers.) I want pictures. And I very rarely want pictures. Except in picture books, obviously 😉
I did wonder why this is set in Japan. It’s a culture and country I’m intrigued by, and have been since I took up karate at university, and studied Zen Buddhism as part of my dissertation. I also had a Japanese roommate, and Japanese friends at karate club, but the cultural and language barriers meant that it was a very arms length friendship. I’d love to be able to visit – books like this are a glimpse into a world beyond the barriers.
Do I recommend this book? Very much so. It’s a difficult subject but sensitively dealt with.
This is the first book of my #Netgalleychallenge 🙂