Book Review: Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto


Reviewed by: Savannah
Genre: Biography
Page count: 256 pages
Rating: 4/5 stars
In stock: Yes

I am back and ready for another year of Canada Reads reviews, hope you all are too! The theme for this years Canada Reads is “One Book to Open Your Eyes”. This book isn’t one that I would usually pick for myself. I’ve only recently started to get into biographies and so when I read them its usually only for people I know of. That being said, this book was still super good. I enjoyed it quite a bit and it definitely opened my eyes. This book also happened to tie in nicely to my goal of reading more Canadian Non-fiction so double bonus! I’ll give you the Goodreads synopsis now so you can read what it’s about

The heart-rending true story of two families on either side of the Second World War-and a moving tribute to the nature of forgiveness

When the Second World War broke out, Ralph MacLean traded his quiet yet troubled life on the Magdalene Islands in eastern Canada for the ravages of war overseas. On the other side of the country, Mitsue Sakamoto and her family felt their pleasant life in Vancouver starting to fade away after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Ralph found himself one of the many Canadians captured by the Japanese in December 1941. He would live out his war in a prison camp, enduring beatings, starvation, electric feet and a journey on a hell ship to Japan, watching his friends and countrymen die all around him. Mitsue and her family were ordered out of their home and were packed off to a work farm in rural Alberta, leaving many of their possessions behind. By the end of the war, Ralph was broken but had survived. The Sakamotos lost everything when the community centre housing their possessions was burned to the ground, and the $25 compensation from the government meant they had no choice but to start again.

Forgiveness intertwines the compelling stories of Ralph MacLean and the Sakamotos as the war rips their lives and their humanity out of their grasp. But somehow, despite facing such enormous transgressions against them, the two families learned to forgive. Without the depth of their forgiveness, this book’s author, Mark Sakamoto, would never have existed.”

I think if anything, this book opened my eyes as to how ignorant of Canada’s terrible past I have been. In this case my ignorance was towards to internment of the Japanese population. I always knew that it had happened but it never really registered what exactly had happened, and just how recently it had happened. The hardships that the Sakamoto’s had to face broke my heart over and over again. The overt racism was already bad enough but the thought of having to leave my home to either a country or province I have never been to leaving my entire life behind just because the government said to do so is absolutely heartbreaking and unthinkable.

Reading about Ralph MacLean’s past was also just as hard to read. It is basically impossible for me to imagine being in a war. Reading it was also strange in that there’s no way one human has survived that much trauma and makes it out of the war alive, and yet that’s exactly what happened. And you know that the whole way through as if he didn’t this book wouldn’t exist. Yet there was still that small part of me that was preparing for death.

This book was also beautifully written and just a general good read. My absolute favourite quote from it is one that may stay with me for a very long time. “Breaking down is the easy part. Anyone, at any time, can break down. The act of coming together again is what makes a hero. Moving on, with an open heart, seems, at times, impossible. But it’s not.” That was one of those quotes where you read it and then just have to sit there with yourself and let it ruminate.

This was a really good read and I will definitely be rooting for it during the Canada Reads debates.

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