I love historical fiction that centers around World War II.  (I love World War II non-fiction, as well.)  Since my husband is from Japan, I also have an interest in Japanese culture.

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Above the East China Sea by Sarah Bird was sitting on one of the end caps at my library and caught my attention.  Lucky me, the book is historical fiction set in modern times as well as World War II in Okinawa, Japan.

This story tells two parallel tales.  In modern times, it tells the story of Luz James, a teenage army brat who finds herself in Okinawa with her military mother.  Luz doesn’t get along well with her mother, and even though her grandmother was from Okinawa, Luz knows very little about the language or the culture.  Luz is floating along, just trying to pass each day with the help of drugs, alcohol, and the “friends” who pass their days the same way.

The other line of the story is about a teenage Okinawan girl, Tamiko, who finds her ordinary life swept up in the current of World War II.  While she had been fairly privileged, once the Americans come to the island, she and her sister, Hatsuko, abandon their schooling as all their classmates do.  Instead, their new job becomes being nurses to all of the wounded and suffering Japanese soldiers.

As the story progresses, Luz’s story becomes intertwined with Tamiko.  The two girls come to share an unbreakable bond, though it takes until the end of the story to realize why.

I’ll be honest, this book was s-l-o-w for about the first 40 pages.  I was ready to abandon it, but before I did, I checked out the reviews on Goodreads.  Many people complained about how slow the book starts but then said it went on to be a great read.  So, I persevered, and I’m so glad I did.  This was an excellent book!  I highly recommend it.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.