Set in the mid-19th century, this fourth of Yoshimura's novels to be translated into English tells the astonishing story of a 13-year-old Japanese boy who becomes a castaway, is rescued by an American ship and brought to San Francisco, and finally returns years later to his native land. Unfortunately, while the circumstances the narrative covers-storms at sea, unspeakable privations, violent rebellions on several continents, amazing coincidences and ironic reversals-are dramatic and surprising, the novel itself is written (or perhaps translated) in dry circumstantial detail, wooden in affect. Born in a small village on an island on the Inland Sea, Hikotaro, aka Hikozo and Joseph Hiko, traverses more than oceans in a lifelong voyage. He faces the cultural dislocations of an alien in American society and the violent enmity of his countrymen when he returns to Japan as a Westernized employee of the U.S. consulate. His life spans the Taiping Rebellion in China, the U.S. Civil War and the turbulent period before the Meiji Restoration in Japan. Along the way he meets three U.S. Presidents-Pierce, Buchanan and Lincoln-travels with Commodore Perry's fleet, is promised a job by Secretary of State William Seward and crosses paths with many other notable people. After returning to his homeland, he founds Japan's first newspaper and uses his skill in English to succeed in several businesses. But beneath his achievements lies the sadness of a man without a country. Readers can't fail to find the novel's historical details fascinating, but its protagonist and his shipmates, whose exhaustively detailed experiences are also interpolated into the narrative, lack emotional depth, and Yoshimura's matter-of-fact prose fails to sustain dramatic tension. Agent, Al Zuckerman. (May 4) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Yoshimura follows One Man's Justice with another work of historical fiction. Here he brings us to the mid-1800s, where he tracks the real life of Hizoko, a Japanese boy orphaned by his mother at 13. When Hizoko follows in his stepfather's and stepbrother's footsteps and becomes a sailor, he is caught in a violent storm and shipwrecked. As a castaway, Hizoko is found and brought to America, where he is baptized as Joseph Heco. When he takes a difficult journey back to his homeland some nine years later, he experiences the loneliness of a man caught between two separate cultures who has to face the disappointment of not fitting into either one. Yoshimura narrates this story with great attention to detail. Hizoko's story has the potential to appeal to a wide cross section of readers; with its fluid prose and descriptions of Hizoko's life at sea, this work might be likened to the early portion of James Michener's Hawaii. A definite purchase for public and academic libraries already carrying titles by Yoshimura and a good choice for those libraries desiring to build up their historical or Asian fiction collections.-Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.