Recently my husband and I watched a Netflix four part miniseries, Tokyo Trial, about the war crimes tribunal in Japan at the end of the Second World War. I knew absolutely nothing about the trials and the series captured my attention.
Not many days after viewing the series I stumbled on Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson, published in 2016. I found it through the Hoopla app through my local library. I like to listen to audio books when I take walks and in perusing what was available this title jumped out at me seeing as Japan and WW II was fresh on my mind.
The description of the book at Hoopla says it’s …
...the true story of six-year-old Sachiko Yasui’s survival of the Nagasaki atomic bomb on August 9, 1945 and the heartbreaking and lifelong aftermath.
Sounds like it could be depressing to say the least. But the description goes on to say that the book …
…chronicles her long journey to find peace.
That sounded hopeful.
I downloaded the book and almost from the first word spoken I was mesmerized. It is narrated by Katherine Fenton and her narration is spellbinding.
Sachiko was six years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. She was playing house with friends, making mud dumplings outside an air raid shelter which her family and others had occupied earlier that morning following an air raid siren. When the all clear sounded she and her friends played together while the others dispersed to various places and activities.
Not long into their play, Sachiko heard the whine of a B-2 bomber and looked up. Moments later her life was forever changed!
How can I describe the impact this book had on me? Stelson’s writing is poetic. The words she uses and the manner in which she weaves them together is simply beautiful. It is warm and tender, frightening, heartbreakingly sad, full of love and devotion, sorrow and loss, but also hope is found page after page.
The book chronicles Sachiko’s life from that fateful moment in time up through the present. It describes in detail the ordeals she and her family suffered. She was the third of five children; 3 brothers and 1 sister. Her father was an extraordinary man whose impact on her life carried her through the most trying experiences. As a mother myself I could not imagine what her mother suffered. What the survivors of the atomic bomb endured was beyond comprehension.
Intermingled with the narrative of Sachiko’s story is background on the war in the Pacific, some details about the American occupation of Japan after the war, and the plight of those who survived the initial blast only to suffer horrible effects of the radiation.
I highly recommend this book. Yes, it’s sad. Yes, it brought me to tears a number of times, many times. But it is also very inspiring. This is the story of the resiliency of the human spirit and it will enrich you.
At the end of the story, Stelson recounts her five visits, over five years to Japan to interview Sachiko and how their relationship became a friendship.
Do not miss this book!