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Jennifer Cody Epstein Shows Literary Excellence in Historical Fiction Novel Centered in WWII called The Gods of Heavenly Punishment

The Gods of Heavenly PunishmentThe Gods of Heavenly Punishment, by Jennifer Cody Epstein, is a brilliant, epic novel that is an emotionally character driven look into a part of World War II not always featured heavily in historical fiction work.

It gives the reader a glimpse, through the eyes of every day characters, the life pre- and post part of the war that occurs between America and Japan. It impacts our soul by concentrating on the result these horrors of war has on actual life.

However, the book does more than bring to us a reporting of events as it draws comparisons among characters and shows us that human compassion doesn’t have boundaries, even in war. It offers a look at the survival of the human spirit, determination of the soul, and love that extends even through heartache.

In her own subtle way she creates suspense as she begins her novel in a way that makes us feel that this is a normal story of life’s interactions, only to literally “drop the bomb.” To me, I sensed this was pretty parallel to how the people in Japan felt when the firebombing occurred in Tokyo. Though she didn’t rely heavily on any military or war details, she brought the story to us through how the war effected the people on both sides of the conflict, how it impacted families in both America and Japan, and how it pitted people not even wanting to be involved in war against each other.  Although I don’t want to mislead you, hearing about the atrocities is unsettling, as it should be to readers.

I’ve not ever read much historical fiction involving the Japanese side of WWII. The writing style of Epstein intrigued me and has made me want to learn more. I didn’t remember that fighter pilots were captured and tortured, nor did it dawn on me that so many thousands of people were killed in Tokyo. However, as I stated, her book isn’t fully a history lesson, it’s more a story of how life and people all intertwine together. It shows us how, in life, we are all connected in some form. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is truly a story of journey and redemption.

Epstein’s character development, layers of literary depth, and emotionally moving and complex story lead me to highly recommend this book not just to fans of historical fiction, but to readers who can appreciate literary fiction that cements itself into the psyche and the heart, causing thought-provoking episodes.  It’s truly a piece of literature that delves into societal and social issues in history, comparable to another best-loved author of mine, Pearl S. Buck.


The Gods of Heavenly PunishmentPublication Date: March 11, 2013
W.W. Norton & Company
Hardcover; 384p
ISBN-10: 039307157X

A lush, exquisitely rendered meditation on war, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment tells the story of several families, American and Japanese, their loves and infidelities, their dreams and losses, and how they are all connected by one of the most devastating acts of war in human history.

Fifteen-year-old Yoshi Kobayashi, child of Japan’s New Empire, daughter of an ardent expansionist and a mother with a haunting past, is on her way home on a March night when American bombers shower her city with napalm—an attack that leaves one hundred thousand dead within hours and half the city in ashen ruins. In the days that follow, Yoshi’s old life will blur beyond recognition, leading her to a new world marked by destruction and shaped by those considered the enemy: Cam, a downed bomber pilot taken prisoner by the Imperial Japanese Army; Anton, a gifted architect who helped modernize Tokyo’s prewar skyline but is now charged with destroying it; and Billy, an Occupation soldier who arrives in the blackened city with a dark secret of his own. Directly or indirectly, each will shape Yoshi’s journey as she seeks safety, love, and redemption.

Praise for The Gods of Heavenly Punishment

“…The book reveals itself to be as miraculously constructed as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel in Tokyo (which itself is a character). The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is a page-turner thanks to its high-stakes adventure, torrid love affairs and characters so real they seem to follow you around. And in the end, this gripping novel asks us not just to consider a lost chapter of a famous war but also to explore what it means to be lucky—and what it means to be loved. (Amy Shearn, O magazine)

“The Gods of Heavenly Punishment showcases war’s bitter ironies…as well as its romantic serendipities.” (Megan O’Grady, Vogue)

“With stunning clarity, Epstein has re-created Tokyo both before and after the bombing in a novel that raises still-unanswered questions about the horrors of war, the cruelty associated with it and the lasting impression it can make on a person, a people or a place.” (Shelf-Awareness.com)

“An epic novel about a young Japanese girl during World War II underscores the far-reaching impact that the decisions of others can have.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Epstein’s second novel (after The Painter from Shanghai) is bursting with characters and locales. Yet painful, authentic (Epstein has lived and worked in Asia), and exquisite portraits emerge of the personal impact of national conflicts—and how sometimes those conflicts can be bridged by human connections.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Sweeping….[A] harrowing novel of destruction and creation that will appeal to fans of historical fiction” (Library Journal—starred review)

Author Jennifer Cody Epstein, Biography~

Jennifer EpsteinJennifer Cody Epstein is the author of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment and the international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, Self, Mademoiselle and NBC, and has worked in Hong Kong, Japan and Bangkok, Thailand. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, two daughters and especially needy Springer Spaniel.

For more information, please visit www.jennifercodyepstein.com.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/godsofheavenlypunishmenttour/
Twitter Hashtag: #HeavenlyPunishmentTour


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Casade is a Refreshing Novel of Literary Distinction that Deals with Change, Hope, and Dreams

CascadeCascade, by Maryanne O’Hara, is a beautifully written book. At the same time poignant and heart-wrenching, it’s also touching, revealing, and strong in the essence of knowing oneself.  At times when we don’t always know what is the best decision, this book shows a way to have the power to not meet societal norms or dictates, but to follow your heart and your mind’s desires.

I’m so happy to have read Cascade, as it shows a depression-era woman defying the odds and following her own true path.  It’s a vibrant novel that deals with the true issue of women’s rights. The right to own her own thoughts, plans, ideas, and to formulate her own journey. Women still struggle with this today, but in the 1930s, especially with the financial foundation of America crumbling, women did not usually have the means to pursue their dreams, especially creative dreams. People were losing money, which meant less was spent on luxury items like art, theatre, writing, and weekend get-aways.

Taking place in these bad economic times, the novel opens with artist Desdemona Hart Spaulding knowing she should be content with her good-looking Lindbergh look-alike and rich-to-the-times pharmacist husband even if she doesn’t love him….or want kids badly, as he does with a virulent immediacy. 

Dez is an artist and wishes to pursue her dreams, but she made the decision to marry him to survive at the moment.  Her father’s town playhouse was losing money, as most things were during the Great Depression, and he fell ill.  When he died, he left the playhouse to Dez’s husband, Asa. As she struggles with having made that decision to marry Asa, and vies with herself about not being able to be happy with being content, she meets a Jewish salesman, Jacob, of whom she shares a love of art.

Amid her own internal struggle is the dilemma in the town of Cascade, Massachusetts, where she lives at the opening of the book. Cascade is on the government’s list as a possible site to drown under water in the overflow from a new reservoir being built for Boston. She feverently wants to save her father’s Shakespearean theater, but it’s closed for business and not many rich city dwellers are apt to return to see the plays anymore.  She uses her artistic and creative ideas in order to add to the fight against the state government, showcasing the loveliness of Cascade. I enjoyed reading about her creative ideas as I also enjoy art as well as fighting for great causes in creative ways.

However, when her idea brings household recognition, she sees her dreams of being a professional artist within her sights and New York City keeps calling. Then there is Jacob. A murder. And a mystery is added to the mix.

Overall, the book truly deals with Dez’s emotional turmoil to come to terms with feeling confident about making her own decisions as a woman. She worries over pleasing others with her decisions, but just can never shake the feeling that she isn’t where she belongs.

Cascade was emotionally saturated with grief, loss, love, hope, survival, and desire. Above all, it takes the reader on a journey about change and being true to self. It was a great reminder about tossing the feelings of guilt that come with pursuing creative dreams.  I throughly loved this book and it’s a must read for fans of true literary fiction.

Note:  This is a great book for book clubs, reading groups, or discussion-oriented platforms. There is much to discuss in this book including women’s roles in society and family, government “land issues,”  living in a hurting economy, fighting for a cause, and more.

Come back tomorrow for an exclusive interview with Maryanne, where she discusses some topics you won’t want to miss, plus there will be a giveaway!

 CASCADE, Synopsis~

CascadePublication Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Penguin Books
Paperback; 384p

A Slate Magazine “Best Books 2012″
A People Magazine “People Pick”
A Library Journal 2012 “Best Bet”

During the 1930s in a small town fighting for its survival, a conflicted new wife seeks to reconcile her artistic ambitions with the binding promises she has made

Fans of Richard Russo, Amor Towles, Sebastian Barry, and Paula McLain will devour this transporting novel about the eternal tug between our duties and our desires, set during in New York City and New England during the Depression and New Deal eras.

It’s 1935, and Desdemona Hart Spaulding has sacrificed her plans to work as an artist in New York to care for her bankrupt, ailing father in Cascade, Massachusetts. When he dies, Dez finds herself caught in a marriage of convenience, bound to the promise she made to save her father’s Shakespeare Theater, even as her town may be flooded to create a reservoir for Boston. When she falls for artist Jacob Solomon, she sees a chance to escape and realize her New York ambitions, but is it morally possible to set herself free?

Praise for CASCADE

“The protagonist is Desdemona Hart, a woman drowning in the choices she’s been forced to make: a marriage of necessity to save her father’s legacy and put a roof over his head as he dies……trouble escalates, and so will the rate at which you turn the pages. Cascade is perfect for sitting by the fire on a chilly day contemplating the immutability of things.” –Slate: 2012 Best Books, Staff Picks

“When state engineers created the Quabbin Reservoir in the 1930s, four Central Massachusetts towns disappeared beneath the waters. In her debut novel, Cascade, Ashland resident Maryanne O’Hara chronicles the fate of one such (fictionalized) town and its inhabitants, notably Desdemona Hart Spaulding, an ambitious artist trapped in a loveless marriage. O’Hara, a former Ploughshares fiction editor, shapes her protagonist’s story to pose questions like: If art is not lastingly valuable, what is? Ponder that over your next glass of tap water.” –Boston Globe, Best of the New, 2012

“Gorgeously written and involving, Cascade explores the age-old conflict between a woman’s perceived duty and her deepest desires, but in O’Hara’s skilled hands the struggle feels fresh and new.” –People Magazine

Link to the Official Book Trailer: http://www.maryanneohara.com/cascade-trailer/

Author Maryanne O’Hara, Biography~

Maryanne O'HaraMaryanne O’Hara was the longtime associate fiction editor at the award-winning literary journal Ploughshares. She received her MFA from Emerson College fifteen years ago, and wrote short fiction that was widely published before committing to the long form. She lives on a river near Boston.






Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/cascadevirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #CascadeVirtualTour

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