Beside a Burning Sea
ISBN 9780451224927 | 448 pages | 02 Sep 2008 | NAL | 8.26 x 5.23in | 18 - AND UP
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From the author of Beneath a Marble Sky comes an inspiring new novel of a man and a woman from different worlds whose love is put to the ultimate test as they struggle to survive an extraordinary set of circumstances.“From page one of Beside A Burning Sea, you know you are in the hands of a master storyteller. This novel has the aura of the mythic, the magical, and that which is grounded in history. Shors weaves psychological intrigue by looking at his characters’ competing desires: love, revenge, and meaning. Both lyrical and deeply imaginative.”
View our feature on John Shors' Beside a Burning Sea.
One moment, the World War II hospital ship Benevolence is patrolling the South Pacific on a mission of mercy—to save wounded American soldiers. The next, Benevolence is split in two by a torpedo, killing almost everyone on board. A small band of survivors, including an injured Japanese soldier and a young American nurse whom he saves from drowning, makes it to the deserted shore of a nearby island.
Akira has suffered five years of bloodshed and horror fighting for the Japanese empire. Now, surrounded by enemies he is supposed to hate, he instead finds solace in their company—and rediscovers his love of poetry. While sharing the mystery and beauty of this passion with Annie, the captivating but tormented woman he rescued, Akira grapples with the pain of his past while helping Annie uncover the promise of her future. Meanwhile, the remaining castaways endure a world not of their making—a world as barbaric as it is beautiful, as hateful as it is loving.
With the blend of epic storytelling and emotional intensity that distinguishes him as a unique talent, John Shors reveals a powerful story of redemption focusing on unlikely lovers, heroes and villains, and war-torn countries—all, in their own ways, fighting to survive.
—Amy Tan, Author of The Joy Luck Club
“Shors’ sophomore effort (following Beneath a Marble Sky), set on an island in the South Pacific during three weeks in 1942, features achingly lyrical prose, even in depicting the horrors of war. After a U.S. hospital ship is torpedoed and sunk by the Japanese, a handful of survivors struggle for survival on a remote island. They include the captain and an officer; a Japanese prisoner, Akira, and two ship’s nurses he saved (one of them the captain’s wife); and the ship’s engineer, who saves a Fijian stowaway, Rat u. Akira, a college professor pressed into service, is haunted by what he saw, did, and didn’t do at Nanking. Jake, the engineer, is a black farmer who sees in Ratu the son he never had. Ratu adds a colorful combination of winsome bravado, humor and childish fear; each main character is similarly well-rounded, excepting the single-minded traitor among them, unsuspected by his fellow castaways. Shors pays satisfying attention to class and race dynamics, as well as the tension between wartime enemies. The survivors’ dignity, quiet strength and fellowship make this a magical read.”
– Publishers Weekly
Praise for Shors’ debut BENEATH A MARBLE SKY:
“Jahanara is a beguiling heroine whom readers will come to love; none of today’s chick-lit heroines can match her dignity, fortitude and cunning...Elegant, often lyrical, writing distinguishes this literary fiction from the genre known as historical romance. It is truly a work of art, rare in a debut novel.”
The Des Moines Register
“An exceptional work of fiction...A gripping account.”
“Agreeably colorful...[with] lively period detail and a surfeit of villains.”
“Highly recommended...A thrilling tale [that] will appeal to a wide audience.”
“An absorbing novel about the extremes of passion—with much relevance for our own time.”
—Rocky Mountain News
“As luminous a jewel as any that adorn the Taj Mahal’s walls.”
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