I picked up a few books at an outlet bookstore back in early May. Between reading books for my book club and catching up on magazines, a couple trips and more, I hadn't been able to read Beside A Burning Sea until this past week.
This is John Shors second novel. His widely acclaimed first novel, Under A Marble Sky has been published in fifteen languages.
Beside A Burning Sea is set in the Pacific during the early days of WWII. A hospital ship is torpedoed and sunk. Nine survivors make it to an island. One is a truly evil man. Another is the captain of the ship whose guilt for surviving is unbearable. There are three nurses, two crewmen, a young boy from Fiji, and a Japanese prisoner of war. There are three love stories to follow, that of the nurse and captain who are man and wife, the love that develops between another nurse and the Japanese soldier, and the deep love the little boy and one of the crewmen develop for one another. A father-son relationship, which may be the greatest love story in the book.
We watch these nine people survive on an uninhabited island. We watch their lives intertwine. We see intense emotions and redemption. The love story of Akira and Annie is the primary focus. John Shors uses haiku poetry as a part of their story, and each chapter begins with a haiku. I looked forward to turning the page to each new chapter to read the short, beautiful piece of poetry.
The novel is beautifully written with sensory details that make you scratch the mosquito bites the islanders are plagued with, taste the fish they eat, and visualize the beauty around them.
Yes, in some ways it's predictable, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the book one bit.
I finished the book last night, having a good cry before it ended. Not just a tear or two, but so many that I had difficulty reading the words on the page. I get emotionally involved in some books. I credit that to good writing.
Read more about Beside A Burning Sea (pub 2008) and Beneath A Marble Sky (pub.2006) John Shors has a couple more recent books, as well. If you enjoy a good love story with foreign settings and lyrical prose, then give these books a try.