Abandoned as a child. Half-Japanese, half-American. Ron Jackson is a self-made man of few words who has been through decades of hardship building up a successful bar business in Yokohama. As he finally gets ready to enjoy life in retirement, an unexpected meeting jolts his entire world. Ron decides to set out on a mission to make peace with his past, marked by ruthlessness, bitterness, and suppressed love.
When I bought the book, I had misread the cover and back jacket and convinced myself I was getting a different story than the one I read. For some reason, I’d seen Ron’s white hair on the cover as a hood and thought him to be a youngster on a “mission” like the back cover said of righting wrongs in his life in Yokohama. I was anticipating an action-packed journey of vengeance, and what I got was so much more satisfying. Lund wrote a beautiful masterpiece of righting wrongs caused by oneself. What a healing journey for our main character Ron, and what an inspiration to live life right the first time to the best of your ability.
Outstanding Cast of Characters
Ron, this imperfect human being, bullied and raised in poverty, suffering because of his liver the entire book, is trying to finally do the right thing. And we ache to see him succeed before he keels over, before time runs out for any of them.
Then there’s Yumi, this incredibly loyal woman whom we fall in love with from her introduction in the book. I adored her and her unfailing love for Ron.
All the changes characters like Johnny and Nena underwent. Kei was so realistically written. (I am her in real life. The oldest daughter of two fatherless girls and I reacted the same way she did learning about my father. I had questions and nothing but love for him.)
Even down to Stan, being this great comic relief, a jolly good fellow and friend of Ron’s. Just an overall fantastic cast, a group of characters you cannot resist falling in love with.
Subtle Hourglass Theme
All throughout the book, there was this subtle hourglass theme. Like time was running out but we didn’t know for who, and honestly I didn’t relax until the book was over. I couldn’t pinpoint why I felt such a drive to turn the page. I was obviously invested in the story, in love with the characters, but this hourglass sense had my guts knotted the whole time. And I LOVED THAT SO MUCH!! Especially since I don’t believe Lund wrote that suspense intentionally. I feared the whole book that Ron would die before he completed his list, or that something would happen to Johnny that would leave wounds unhealed. This thrilling theme fueled me chapter to chapter, and kept me from ever predicting the end.
Culture Came Through
If you follow Lund on Twitter, you’ll see all the breathtaking photos he posts of Japan where he lives. He’s completely in love with his home there and that love most certainly transferred to the book. From the streets of Ron’s restaurants to the dialect of international tourists, every page you turn Lund is luring you further into Yokohama and Japanese culture.
The best part is how authentic it all feels. Without having been to Japan, I know the setting Lund is describing is realistic because it isn’t cliché Asia and because of how he never tries to convince us that’s how it REALLY is in Yokohama. He paints a picture of what he sees everyday. A beautiful, vivid image of Japan unlike we’ve ever seen before.
The story follows Ron on his journey to complete his shuukatsu, a list of names of those Ron wronged or was wronged by throughout his life that he must make amends with to die in peace. With his diseased liver impending death, Ron feels the urgency of “now or never”, and that is the most inspirational part of the entire book: don’t wait until it’s too late. Time ran out for a couple characters Ron never got a chance to apologize to. Others it was the perfect timing for them to reunite. And for one in particular, the regret of not having acted sooner cost Ron a devastating amount of time that can never be recovered.
All in all, the book inspires readers not to wait until the end to do what felt right all along, to say what needs to be said before it’s too late, and to take risks to prevent the “what ifs” later. A flawlessly written journey to peace for one man in Yokohama.