The Gods of Heavenly Punishment

Written by Jennifer Cody Epstein
Review by Viviane Crystal

World War II has fostered many poignant stories about the destruction, pain, and love that bind together those who shared the horrors of this nightmarish period in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment exemplifies this combination through several different points of view.

Before the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we learn of the bombing of Tokyo, Japan, a city mostly constructed of wooden homes that American Air Force pilots destroyed. But what is mostly unknown is that those pilots didn’t have enough gas in their planes to return home and thus had to fly to China, where they hoped to land or crash.

Cam’s plane will be forced to bail out over China, where he will be captured by the Japanese military and endure the unendurable. His wife waits and waits for news regarding his MIA status. Yoshi’s mother is an alcoholic too sick to take her child out to the safer Japanese countryside; Yoshi must endure the American bombing, seeing and hearing horrors no child should have seared across her memories. Billy is an American soldier whose secret touches everything he experiences in Japan. He has a job to do but is always waiting for “the shoe to drop.” The reader almost wishes it would, so fierce is his fear that can be sensed through the author’s descriptions.

So why should one read another account of World War II? This memorable time is magnificently portrayed by this knowledgeable, talented author. It’s a superb read, without being saccharine or hyped, and necessary historical fiction.