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Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Alternate History
History, Science & Current Affairs
In her most ambitious, moving, and provocative novel to date, Sarah Bird makes a stunning departure. Above the East China Sea tells the entwined stories of two teenaged girls, an American and an Okinawan, whose lives are connected across seventy years by the shared experience of profound loss, the enduring strength of an ancient culture, and the redeeming power of family love.
Luz James, a contemporary U.S. Air Force brat, lives with her strictly-by-the-rules sergeant mother at Kadena Air Base in Okianawa. Luz's older sister, her best friend and emotional center, has just been killed in the Afghan war. Unmoored by her sister's death and a lifetime of constant moving from base to base, Luz turns for the comfort her service-hardened mother cannot offer to the "Smokinawans," the "waste cases," who gather to get high every night in a deserted cove. When even pills, one-hitters, Cuervo Gold, and a growing crush on Jake Furusato aren't enough to soften the unbearable edge, the desolate girl contemplates taking her own life.
In 1945, Tamiko Kokuba, along with two hundred of her classmates, is plucked out of her elite girls' high school and trained to work in the Imperial Army's horrific cave hospitals. With defeat certain, Tamiko finds herself squeezed between the occupying Japanese and the invading Americans. She believes she has lost her entire family, as well as the island paradise she so loved, and, like Luz, she aches with a desire to be reunited with her beloved sister.
On an island where the spirits of the dead are part of life and your entire clan waits for you in the afterworld, suicide offers Tamiko the promise of peace. As Luz tracks down the story of her own Okinawan grandmother, she discovers that, if she surrenders to the most unbrat impulse and allows herself to connect completely with a place and its people, the ancestral spirits will save not only Tamiko but her as well.
Propelled by a riveting narrative and set at the very epicenter of the headline-grabbing clash now emerging between the great powers, Above the East China Sea is at once a remarkable chronicle of how war shapes the lives of conquerors as well as the conquered and a deeply moving account of family, friendship, and love that transcends time.
"While some readers may find the dialogue between Tamiko and her unborn child an awkward device, this potential flaw is balanced by the powerful sense of history and place." - Publishers Weekly
"An admirable study of war's impact on and legacy in an underdiscussed place." - Kirkus
"Crossover potential abounds here - meticulously researched historical fiction, YA appeal, a contemporary tale of military life, and an exploration of folklore. Fans of Amy Tan or Khaled Hosseini will be drawn to the adept mingling of settings and cultures, while the mystery elements evoke the fiction of Alice Sebold." - Library Journal
"Above the East China Sea is Sarah Bird's most powerful novel yet...Bird has given us a profoundly moving meditation on war, family, love, and what might be waiting for us on the other side of loss." - Ben Fountain, winner of 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award finalist.
"Sarah Bird, a brilliant and accomplished novelist, has topped herself with this uncommonly powerful, beautifully rendered novel...I will never think of Okinawa, or war, or belonging, in the same way again." - Mary Wertsch, author of Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress
"Informed by her research in Okinawa's history and literature... enhanced by the author's first-hand knowledge of growing up in a military family overseas and her ever-sharp ear for raw and raunchy teenage dialogue." - Steve Rabson, Professor Emeritus of East Asian Studies, Brown University
Sarah Bird is the author of several novels, including The Yokota Officers Club, Virgin of the Rodeo, The Mommy Club, The Boyfriend School, Alamo House, The Flamenco Academy and How Perfect Is That. She is a columnist for the Texas Monthly and has written for The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, O Magazine, Glamour, and Mademoiselle, among other publications. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, George, and son, Gabriel.
Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.
Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.