Ian, a former executive and his 10-year-old daughter, Mattie, are grieving for the wife/mother they lost through death ten months ago. The pain of their grief is real and so intense that it is affecting them emotionally, physically and spiritually. Kate was the nail that held this family together and without her that nail is coming lose and the bond between Ian and Mattie isn't what it used to be. Each of them misses Kate so much that the grief is overwhelming.
Kate had left a birthday package behind for Ian with instructions not to open it until his birthday which happens to be today. Inside he finds a beautifully written letter expressing her undying love for Ian and Mattie. In the letter Kate asks Ian to take Mattie on the trip to Asisa that the three of them were going to take to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary. With the letter are 12 film canisters, 6 for Ian and 6 for Mattie which they are not to open until they are in the country that represents the name on the front of each canister and they are to follow their "original" itinerary. Japan was where Ian and Mattie fell in love.
A year and a half after Kate's death, Ian and Mattie are sitting in a restuarant in Tokyo, Japan trying to decide which type of sushi to try: the ones on the blue plates, green plates or red plates. Each one represents a higher priced meal. Ian was not happy about returning to Japan and felt Kate was asking too much of him. He still had too much grief and felt: "...he couldn't walk through memories that could never be relived", but for Mattie's sake he was going to try and convince her he was having a good time.
Mattie wanted to open the first cannister the following day but Ian convinced her to wait an extra day as he just wasn't ready to deal with it. Mattie however, knew that her Dad was worried about the canisters as she had seen him suffer so much but Ian was totally unaware of this knowledge Mattie had. He didn't know she could hear him crying in the shower late at night.
The first person they meet is Akiko, a school teacher who was out on a field trip with her students. Ian stops and tells the teacher he and his wife used to teach English in Japan which surprises Akiko because she also is an English teacher! Ian and Mattie go back to the school with Akiko and her students where Ian teaches them a game called "Chinese Whispers". From there, he and Mattie continue their travels throughout Asia and meet many wonderful people who are kind and understanding. Their experiences mean different things to each other but never far from their minds is Kate. Their enduring affection for her is overwhelming and grief is hard, painful work.
This novel is about a spiritual and emotional journey. A novel of family, love, transformation and how death doesn't mean we need to stop loving our dearly departed no matter how much time has passed. I think Kate new she was the nail that held this family together which prompted her to pen the letter and make the request for travel in the first place. One of the things that Ian and Mattie learn is: love is forever enduring!
John Shors has once again penned an incredible novel and one that will stay with you long after you've turned the last page! His knowledge and research of the people and places in each novel are so thoroughly researched and his ability to handle the written word is unbelievably magnificent!! Thanks John for another great novel!!
January 11, 2011