This exquisite book, set after the shocking Tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 and took so many lives, wreaking havoc upon the people and land, tells the story of how some survivors handled their overwhelming grief in the aftermath. While the book focuses mainly on Yui (whose mother and daughter were swept away) and Takeshi, a doctor whose wife died of cancer and whose young daughter has fallen into silence ever since, we’re introduced to a host of other characters who find solace, not just in each other (though not in the sense you’d usually expect – they don’t console one another in the ways we traditionally understand this), but in their memories, actions and choices and, through a special place. In a garden by the ocean, Bell Gardia, an elderly couple have a disused phone box which houses the “Wind Phone.” Here, people who are grieving, are welcomed to come and speak into the hand piece, communicate with those who’ve died or who are no longer present in their lives. In expressing their pain, dreams, love, rage etc and sharing with those they’ve lost, these people find ways to connect their past, their sorrow, and reconcile their present. That this place and the phone and its purpose really exist (how wonderful!) gives the tale a special frisson.
I admit, I was a little concerned that a book that focuses so much
on such tragedy, on death and its impact on the living, would be bleak and
miserable. Far from it. This heart-achingly lovely book has moments that do
explore the depths of sadness, but it’s done with such beauty and
thoughtfulness, imbuing even the smallest actions and thoughts with deep
meaning. Yes, I ached, I cried, but I also felt a warm bud of happiness that
grew as the tale progressed and finally blossomed. Through exploring grief, the
ways in which we live with it and finally understand the role it plays in life,
and the ways in which it irrevocably changes those experiencing it, the main
characters and, indeed, the reader, flow into the future. A future that offers cause
lovely, unexpectedly calming and even enchanting read that will linger in your
heart and soul, especially if you’ve felt the loss of a loved one and raged
against the fates, long after the last page.