The Gods of Heavenly Punishment

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment PB CoverTitle: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment
Author: Jennifer Cody Epstein
Source: from publisher for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Rating: ★★★★☆
Review Summary: Although the story was a bit sad for my tastes, this beautifully written book captivated me with vivid personalities and intriguing, interconnected stories.

The defining event of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is the firebombing of Tokyo in WWII. However, what the book is really about is people and the way they affect one another. Fifteen-year-old Yoshi’s experiences leading up to and following the firebombing will be “shaped by those considered the enemy: Cam, a downed bomber pilot taken prisoner by the Imperial Japanese Army; Anton, a gifted architect who helped modernize Tokyo’s prewar skyline but is now charged with destroying it; and Billy, an Occupation soldier who arrives in the blackened city with a dark secret of his own. Directly or indirectly, each will shape Yoshi’s journey as she seeks safety, love, and redemption.” (source)

I love books that, at their heart, are really about people. Jennifer Epstein does a spectacular job bringing the people in her story to life. Each time we meet a new character, we quickly get to the heart of their personality. By revealing each character’s most intimate hopes and fears, Epstein made them each feel so real I had a hard time believing they didn’t exist. As Leah at Books Speak Volumes and I recently discussed, something else that’s a lot of fun about these character driven novels is waiting to see how everyone connects. I loved seeing so many different sides of the war through a collection of interconnected stories.

One of the most impressive parts of the story is how the author conveyed the humanity and inhumanity on both sides of the war. She’ made me feel empathy people on both sides of the pacific at times, while at other times the actions of both sides horrified me. We spent a less time than I would have liked on my favorite story – Yoshi and Billy’s experiences at the end of the war – and one of the other stories was just too sad for me to enjoy. Other than that, I loved everything about this book. The writing is vivid, evocative, able to bring people to life. The plot intricately weaves these characters together into a beautiful, deceptively easy to follow story. The resulting picture of the war is more than the sum of its parts, giving a thought provoking picture of the war that no one viewpoint could have provided. I’ll be thinking about this one for quite some time to come.


For some other perspectives, check out the other stops on the tour, Amazon, or Goodreads.




Filed under Fiction, Historical Fiction

18 Responses to The Gods of Heavenly Punishment

  1. Allison @ The Book Wheel

    This sounds so good, not so much because I like sad books but because the way you described the characters development and writing. I’ll add it to my never-ending list.
    Allison @ The Book Wheel recently posted…War and Tourism Collide in ‘The Assassin’s Mark’My Profile

    • I think this ended on an optimistic note, so even though I disliked the sad events of one storyline, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it someone who shares my dislike of sad books. The writing was so beautiful and I’m glad you’re thinking of picking this up :)

  2. tanya

    You are the first person I know to describe this book as overtly sad. I don’t really like sad novels either, but everything else i’ve heard has been quite positive (including what you’ve said). So although this may have slipped down the list a little bit, I still intend to read it. But maybe when I’m in a sunnier mood.
    tanya recently posted…The Goldfinch by Donna TarttMy Profile

    • One of the story lines was quite sad, but it didn’t get a ton of pages devoted to it and the ending struck me as pretty optimistic. Although I liked it less because of the sad storyline, overall I really loved this book. It was just so well done! I’m glad you’re planning to read it anyway :)
      DoingDewey recently posted…Monuments Men Part II QuestionsMy Profile

  3. Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader

    This book was incredibly sad. And yet…I still adored it. I’m a bit of a glutton for punishment that way though ;)

    Wonderful review!
    Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader recently posted…The Scent of Pine by Lara VapnyarMy Profile

  4. Rebecca @ Love at First Book

    Oooooh this one sounds really good! I am going to have to look into finding a copy of it myself. And I’ll check out a couple of the other tour stops, too!
    Rebecca @ Love at First Book recently posted…Spread the Love Linky Party: Co-hosted by Doing DeweyMy Profile

    • I am actually doing a giveaway starting tomorrow and going through Friday, so you might be able to get the book that way or from some other tour hosts who are doing giveaway :)

  5. Charlie

    Maybe it’s because I’ve only just finished it, but the dealing of the characters and sides here sounds enough like Suite Francaise to make me interested, because I liked that aspect and it’s about the same war. In general, though, this does sound a very good book.
    Charlie recently posted…Irène Némirovsky – Suite FrançaiseMy Profile

  6. Leah @ Books Speak Volumes

    Oh man, this book broke my heart in the best ways; I don’t think it got nearly enough attention last year. So glad you enjoyed it! Nice review :)
    Leah @ Books Speak Volumes recently posted…Jazz Age January: Careless People by Sarah ChurchwellMy Profile

  7. Melissa W.

    I read the book this past summer and didn’t really like it. I felt that while it was well-written, I found it to be convoluted at times and felt that she was too wordy at times.
    Melissa W. recently posted…Mailbox Monday (Jan. 20)My Profile

  8. Melinda @ The Book Musings

    Even though you indicated it’s a sad book, I still want to read this one, because I love books like this. Telling stories about war-time. Going to add it to my list!
    Melinda @ The Book Musings recently posted…A Secret Kept by Tatiana de RosnayMy Profile

    • It was a really beautifully written book and generally ended optimistically, so I’m glad you’re not going to let the sad bits deter you from reading it. I’d recommend it :)

  9. Masanobu

    I just added this to my wishlist thanks to your review! I’m interested on this topic, but I doubt I would have heard of it if it hadn’t been because of you, so thanks. I hope I’ll enjoy it.
    Masanobu recently posted…Currently | Getting my bookish fix through other mediaMy Profile


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