In 1958, a diary is found in a cave on the small Japanese island of Hatoma. Alongside it are the remains of three people.
The journal reveals the story of Hiromi, a sixteen-year-old girl who’d grown up in the United States before living in Japan in the midst of World War II. One day, while collecting star sand—tiny star-shaped fossils—Hiromi finds two army deserters hiding in the seaside cavern—one American, one Japanese. The soldiers don’t speak the same language, but they’ve reached an agreement based on a shared hope: to cause no more harm and survive. Hiromi resolves to care for the men—feeding them and nursing their ailments—despite the risk that, if caught, she’ll die alongside them as a traitor. But when a fourth person joins in on their secret, they must face a threat from within. The diary abruptly ends, leaving everyone’s fate a mystery.
Decades later, in 2011, a young female university student decides to finally determine who died in that cave and who lived. Her search will lead her to the lone survivor—and bring closure to a gripping tale of heroism at a time when committing to peace was the most dangerous act of all.
It wasn’t really all that gripping. It was a little too convenient too. Everything worked together more like a modern fairy tale, a happy dream that these things could even begin to happen, even the end of the main situation isn’t exactly happy. It’s more strange and beautiful than believable.
For someone who loves a fairy tale, which is inherently not believable, it was a nice little book for a day when you want to read something a little light and not so serious. I did have some issues with certain lines that were a little off for our female protagonist, they were a little sexist, like an annoying bit about being accustomed to lying by virtue of being a sixteen year old girl and some assumptions about tears. Do girls do these things? Yeah, some do, and so do boys (more the lying because it’s socially unacceptable for them to cry but they have manipulative equivalents), but part of it is the way that piece was written. Like all girls are like that and it’s a girl thing. Like it’s natural and obvious. It annoyed me but it wasn’t a common theme throughout the story, so I chose to forgive it, but it was the kind of moment that made my skin crawl at the idea that any man actually thinks we all think like that. I hate it when that happens and it was this sort of thing that drove me nuts in some of the Dangerous Women stories.
The book begins with the contents of the diary, which has some holes in the story of it all. It had made me not quite want to finish, but there was enough left to the story that I decided to carry on. They do get mostly resolved and the holes in the story of the diary are put there on purpose, and spur on the third part of the story. Still, it was all convenient, even when it was tragic. None of this stopped it from being a nice story to read but it all kept it from being something as gripping as All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which was the level of work that I had been hoping for.
Still, it was nice to read something a bit more hopeful and something short and easy on a weekend like this past one. I had done a lot more reading than I thought I would because I hadn’t anticipated choosing such short books.