MIDDLE HEAVEN by Mona Gardner
Kirkus Star


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Though this lacks the maturity, the sureness of The Good it could almost be defined as a Japanese parallel. The author has explored convincingly the psychology of the Japanese peasant farmer, the strange codes by which the Japanese medieval point of view has been kept alive, the pattern of life in which the head of the house, be he father or eldest son, must hold the dominant role. And yet, from the start the reader interest is centred on Tomo, wife of the absent Chu, who during the war has held the family, with its odd ramifications, intact, and planned hourly for her man's return from the hated war in China. Then Chu comes back, a changed man in more than the loss of his arm, a man whose faith in his Japanese traditions has been shaken by an experience which had cost him his arm, and his own sense of honor. He walks in a world alone; he seems unable to take up his former role; and Tomo has the more difficult task of making the decisions seem to be his. Then comes the earthquake and tidal wave; the material world is shattered and destroyed-and Chu seems deliberately to have chosen death with honor. Tomo is left alone- the head and yet not the head of the family. She must take circuitous ways to achieve her end,- the saving of her daughter from sale to the man who desired Tomo; the saving of the new plot of land; the marriage of the girl Haru; the problem of the studious son -- and the circumventing of Isamu, kinsman, who claims headship, with Chu's death. It is an absorbing and utterly fascinating book, a preceptive portrait of the Japanese way of life, as new ideas begin to take root with the defeat which put them under the foreign heel. The rhythms are Oriental without hampering the pace of the story.

Pub Date: Aug. 3rd, 1950
Publisher: Doubleday