It is rare that we as a group split on our opinions of a book. Last night was a great discussion because of the passionate discussions that were displayed at the dinner table. Hiroshima in the Morning is a memoir by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto. She was given the opportunity to leave New York and live in Japan for six months to interview the few remaining Hiroshima atom bomb survivors in an attempt to draw out their true stories. She finds that the information she gets feels like the stories they have told and re-told over and over again. They don't seem to have much truth and emotional depth. That is, until after 9/11 when the events in New York seem to awaken the people she has been talking with and their stories become more "human."
However, the book is also about Rizzuto's loss of her mother (a Japanese woman who was sent to the interment camps in America during the war) to Alzheimers and the eventual ending of Rizzuto's marriage.
Complaints about the book is that she was paid to write a story about the survivors and their experience and this novel about how hard it was to adapt to life in Japan and the authors struggles with her own family dynamic didn't quite mesh. We wondered if THIS really was the book that she wrote about Hiroshima or if 10 years later she's still working on the actual book.
Some of our group took issue with Rizzuto's decision to leave her family for six months. Is leaving your children who are 3 and 5 wrong when it is for work? Would we have felt differently if Rizzuto had been the father and not the mother?
Others felt that her actions were fine, but she seemed cold and not emotionally present for anyone. She spends many pages sharing how difficult it was adjusting to life in Japan, but didn't express missing her children. When they finally are able to visit she seems to resent their presence.
There were folks that liked the book and expressed that the longer they are away from it the more it tended to grow and resonate for them. The disdain for the book was not universal, in fact the authors actions and motivations were handily defended.