Ray’s poignant suffering is but one example of the bigotry and fear experienced by Japanese-born U.S. citizens after Pearl Harbor, the same bigotry and fear of the other that still sadly exists in America today ... Ray’s story of young love and loss as well as an often-omitted aspect of WWII history will resonate with teens.
It’s a complex narrative structure, but this allows Kiefer to constantly overlay past and present and to recognize, through John, the cycles in which his character, and in fact the country, remains trapped—cycles of racism, cycles of war, and cycles of young men who return home guilty of crimes, the full ramifications of which they couldn’t possibly understand. Yet for all this, the novel—certainly anti-war, certainly condemning our country’s dark past—is full of quavering beauty, unbreakable love, and fragile, relentless hope. 'Have you not been with me all the while?' In the hands of a writer as skilled and gifted as Kiefer, the answer can only be yes, for sweet life spills from every perfect word ... It will break your heart, and in the breaking, fill you with bittersweet but luminous joy.