Friday, October 25, 2019

Review of Hiroshima Boy by Naomi Hirahara (2018, Prospect Park Books)

Mas Arai was born in the US but spent his youth in Japan and was present in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb detonated. He then returned to the US only returning briefly to meet his bride. Now 86 he returns to Hiroshima with the ashes of his best friend, Haruo, travelling to a small offshore island where his friend’s sister lives in a nursing home. Not long after he arrives the ashes are stolen from his room and he discovers the body of a teenager in a bay. He recognizes the teenager as a fellow passenger on the ferry to the island and although the police are investigating the death, Mas can’t help poking about in the case while also trying to relocate his friend’s ashes.

Hiroshima Boy is the seventh and final book in the Mas Arai series. It can be read as a standalone and I’ve not read any of the other instalments. In this outing, Mas – now aged 86 – travels to Hiroshima from California to return the ashes of his best friend. Although a US citizen, Mas spent much of his childhood, including the war years, in the city, being present when it was devastated by the atomic bomb. He’s soon playing detective after his friend’s ashes are stolen from his guest room in a nursing home and he discovers the body of a teenager. Hirahara spins a quite gentle tale that pivots around these two mysteries, with Mas making a nuisance of himself as he searches for answers, befriends locals, rescues a stray cat, and takes on rowdy kids. The tale drifts along at a pleasant cadence, with the focus being as much about Mas and his journey back to the city of his youth as the mysteries. Indeed, there’s little suspense, tension or surprise, but it’s nonetheless an enjoyable, poignant read.

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