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Extended Audio Sample Above the East China Sea, by Sarah Bird Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Sarah Bird Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda, Ali Ahn, Tandy Cronyn, Graham Halstea Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “An extraordinary effort of the imagination and a major display of literary talent—an absolutely don’t-miss novel that should become a classic contribution to the fiction of our era.”

    Washington Times

  • “Like Faulkner, Bird is a writer whose métier is the American South, though, also like Faulkner, her writing possesses an expansive worldview. To my mind, Bird is the finest living Texas novelist, and Above the East China Sea showcases all of her gifts in spades—her unmistakable voice displays warmth, wit, and that rare variety of irreverence that possesses real heart.”

    Texas Observer

  • Above the East China Sea should be the one that lands Bird among the literary elite. This is the rare tome that has the goods for both popular and critical acclaim at the highest level.”

    Dallas Morning News

  • “This is Bird’s most ambitious novel to date, tackling a World War II tragedy about which most Westerners know little or nothing. During the Battle of Okinawa, hundreds of island teens known as the Princess Lily Girls were forced to serve as nurses on the front lines under horrifying conditions…Bird depicts Okinawa’s island culture, and its violent near-erasure at the hands of Japan and America, in hypnotic detail…the history is undeniably gripping. Ultimately, this tale of how women and girls survive bloody times manages its happy ending without offering easy answers—quite a feat for such an entertaining read.”

    Austin Chronicle

  • “Links between the two girls, hinted at early on, crystallize as Luz’s quest to learn more about her ancestors takes her deeper into the past and into the traditions that still exert a hold on daily Okinawan life. Bird, whose other novels include the well-received Yokota Officers Club, has delivered a multilayered and utterly involving work with plenty of grist for book discussions.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “A rich and engrossing achievement…a suspenseful and magical journey…Fans of Amy Tan or Khaled Hosseini will be drawn to the adept mingling of settings and cultures.”

    Library Journal

  • “Four narrators tell the interwoven stories of two teenagers—one American and one Okinawan—in clear voices with few accents. In a plot that is both supernatural and historical, Tamiko Kokuba becomes a medical worker on Okinawa in 1945, and Luz James, an American Army brat, searches for information about her Japanese grandmother in the present. Japanese words are subtly inflected and interspersed with unaccented English.”


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About the Author
Author Sarah Bird

Sarah Bird is the author of several novels. She is a columnist for the Texas Monthly and has written for the New York Times; Chicago Tribune; O, The Oprah Magazine; Glamour; and Mademoiselle, among other publications. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, George, and son, Gabriel.