Friday, January 28, 2011

Heart of a Samurai (MG)

Heart of a Samurai. Margi Preus. 2010. [August 2010] Harry N. Abrams. 320 pages. 

Manjiro squinted across the expanse of glittering sea at the line of dark clouds forming on the horizon.

Historical fiction set in the 1840s-1850s. Manjiro may have dreamed about one day being a samurai, but, the truth is as a son of a fisherman, his "destiny" was to be a fisherman. Nothing more, nothing less. After a stormy beginning, Manjiro was lucky to be alive. For when he's out and about with a handful of other fisherman--all older, more experienced--their small boat becomes lost at sea. The young men (Manjiro's just fourteen) end up on a desolate rocky island. Their fate seems all too certain--starvation. But at the hand of "barbarians" (American whalers), they find new opportunities.

Unfortunately, these opportunities come at a heavy price. Because Japan's policies towards outsiders, if the men were to ever return they'd likely be killed because they've been "contaminated" by contact with the outside world. Manjiro accepts a special invitation from the Captain of the whaling vessel. He will--after several years aboard ship with the Captain--return with him to America, will become a part of the Captain's own family. He will be the first Japanese man in America. And the experience is something he never could have imagined! But will he ever get the chance to go home? For no matter how "lucky" he may be to have found a new life, a new family, he can't forget the family he left behind. He can't forget that he never told his mother goodbye--that he left without even telling her where he was going--fishing with friends. All these years, she had no way of knowing if her son was dead or alive. He has to find a way back to Japan if he can.

This historical fiction novel is based on a true story. It is historical adventure. Readers learn about his time at sea--on board a few whaling vessels. Readers learn about his time in America--his first experiences with school, with church,  with the community. Will he be accepted? Or will be seen as strange? as dangerous?

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great review, you sold me on the book :)