In her most ambitious,
moving, and provocative novel to date, Sarah Bird makes a stunning departure.
Above the East China Sea tells the entwined stories of two teenaged girls, an American and an
Okinawan, whose lives are connected across seventy years by the shared
experience of profound loss, the enduring strength of an ancient culture, and
the redeeming power of family love.
Luz James, a contemporary US Air Force brat, lives with her strictly-by-the-rules sergeant mother at Kadena
Air Base in Okianawa. Luz’s older sister, her best friend and emotional center,
has just been killed in the Afghan war. Unmoored by her sister’s death and a
lifetime of constant moving from base to base, Luz turns for the comfort her
service-hardened mother cannot offer to the “Smokinawans,” the “waste cases,”
who gather to get high every night in a deserted cove. When even pills,
one-hitters, Cuervo Gold, and a growing crush on Jake Furusato aren’t enough to
soften the unbearable edge, the desolate girl contemplates taking her own life.
In 1945, Tamiko Kokuba, along
with two hundred of her classmates, is plucked out of her elite girls’ high
school and trained to work in the Imperial Army’s horrific cave hospitals. With
defeat certain, Tamiko finds herself squeezed between the occupying Japanese
and the invading Americans. She believes she has lost her entire family, as
well as the island paradise she so loved, and, like Luz, she aches with a
desire to be reunited with her beloved sister.
On an island where the
spirits of the dead are part of life and your entire clan waits for you in the
afterworld, suicide offers Tamiko the promise of peace. As Luz tracks down the
story of her own Okinawan grandmother, she discovers that, if she surrenders to
the most unbrat
impulse and allows herself to connect completely with a place and its people,
the ancestral spirits will save not only Tamiko but her as well.
Propelled by a riveting
narrative and set at the very epicenter of the headline-grabbing clash now
emerging between the great powers, Above
the East China Sea is at once a remarkable chronicle of how war shapes the lives of
conquerors as well as the conquered and a deeply moving account of family,
friendship, and love that transcends time. Download and start listening now!