The Gods of Heavenly Punishment

Norton. Mar. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780393071573. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393089738. F
OrangeReviewStarIn March 1945, American B-29 bombers flying at low altitude dropped incendiary bombs (napalm) over Tokyo, igniting the city's wood and paper buildings into a blaze that destroyed 17 square miles of city and killed more than 100,000 civilians. The firebombing is the climax of this sweeping novel by Epstein (writing, Columbia Univ.; The Painter from Shanghai), but the story is really about the interconnected lives of several people and their families, both Japanese and American. At the center is Yoshi, a young woman with a fragile, glamorous mother and a traditional, contractor father, but there is also Cam Richards, an American pilot downed in the Doolittle Raid of 1942; his young wife, Lacy; and Anton, a successful architect responsible for modernizing Tokyo, but then later called on by the U.S. Army to help destroy it. There is also Anton's son Billy, who grew up in Japan and years later returns as an Occupation soldier.
VERDICT This harrowing novel of destruction and creation will appeal to fans of historical fiction. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, 9/24/12.]
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