The Flowers of Edo
Lieutenant Ken Kobayashi, one of the noblest fictional characters, narrates this heroic World War II adventure, which moves between America and Japan during the very end of what was a devastating war to both nations. This is one of the most balanced narratives of this difficult historical period this reviewer has ever read.
The Americans, under General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Halsey, are determined to defeat Japan during one of the most daring military offensives ever devised. Ken, as a bright interpreter, realizes during one of the final briefings before the invasion of the Japanese mainland that both sides are about to lose literally hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, and civilians despite the brilliance of the planned attack. So he agrees to infiltrate the meeting of Japanese military, who are planning their defensive and offensive response to the American attack known to soon take place. As Ken, formerly locked up with his family in a Japanese-American internment camp, proceeds to carry out his approved mission, scorn and racial prejudice evolve into respect and friendship. But returning to Japan becomes a brutally painful experience, as he realizes that this once-proud nation is already defeated and naively forging ahead despite the horrific destruction they have already endured. Ken also realizes he would love to locate his brother, Tom, and his long-lost love, Kyoko.
Military weapons and campaign plans are specifically detailed in this novel, and nothing about this most infamous war is left unexplained or without reflection by all sides, including the poignant meaning of the title – which is sure to move even the hardest of hearts. Finally, after what seems a satisfying, albeit sad ending, a startling epilogue follows, which appears so intensely that the reader realizes there may be a sequel in the running for this superb historical novel.