In the Realm of Ash and Sorrow
by Kenneth W. Harmon
Eiledon Publishing

"Ai studied her with pity in her eyes, and it hurt Kiyomi to think her daughter already knew so much about the pain of living."

In this riveting merging of magical realism and historical fiction, Harmon goes above and beyond to portray the destruction and devastation of World War II Japan. This novel follows the lives of two immensely different people that come together despite the barrier of differences that separates them. Bombardier Micah Lund hates everything about the Japanese who killed his brother. His hatred inevitably leads him to his death when he dies on a mission over Hiroshima, but his spirit remains. Kiyomi Oshiro is a war widow who lives with her in-laws and eight-year-old daughter, Ai.

The lives of these two characters clash when Micah follows Kiyomi throughout her daily life in spirit form. He is able to speak to her and Ai when their spirits leave their bodies for the night to dream. Only in death, with his love for Kiyomi and Ai growing, does he realize how misguided his hatred was and that war is senseless. Knowing that staying in Hiroshima is dangerous, Micah urges Kiyomi to flee to the countryside, but will his warning be enough against the societal expectations that weigh Kiyomi down, making leaving difficult?

With an expert hand, Harmon paints a stark and haunting depiction of Hiroshima both before and after the dropping of the atomic bomb that killed countless civilians. Some details are difficult to read because of the gruesome truth behind them, but they portray how sincere Harmon was when researching for this novel. As vivid as the imagery is, character development is also thorough, bringing each of these distinctive characters to life. And despite a plethora of sorrow as promised in the title, Harmon spectacularly portrays that even amidst the horrors humans cause, there is still hope and beauty in humanity, even if just in the simple kindness of strangers.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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