A sobering and compelling narrative of calamity.



Pensive travels in the wake of one of the world’s most devastating recent disasters, the Tohoku earthquake of 2011.

As Parry (People Who Eat Darkness, 2012, etc.), Tokyo bureau chief of the Times of London, writes, Japan is readier than any other nation for disaster, especially earthquake. Tokyo buildings are meant to stand up to shaking, even if they’re highly flammable, and Japanese citizens have been drilled and know what to do. So, too, the author: “I had lived in Japan for sixteen years,” he writes, “and I knew, or believed that I knew, a good deal about earthquakes.” Yet, when the seafloor started shaking off the northeastern coast of Honshu on March 11, 2011, only a few experts could foresee what would soon unfold: the destruction of the nuclear reactor at Fukushima, the landfall of a wall of water 120 feet high, and a wave of death as people struggled to find safety on higher ground. An enterprising journalist, Parry visited the devastation in the immediate aftermath, and he recounts his experiences among grieving and dazed residents, many of those survivors having lost children as schools were swallowed up in seawater. The author’s narrative is appropriately haunted and haunting. One memorable moment comes when he describes someone brought back from the brink of madness by a perhaps unlikely method: namely, being sprinkled with holy water and thus freed from the hold of “the dead who cannot accept yet that they are dead.” Parry’s set pieces come to have a certain predictability: expert–victim–expert–survivor. Yet they retain their urgency, for, as he writes, it won’t be long before another earthquake of similar or even greater intensity strikes Tokyo proper, with its millions of inhabitants; in that event, “the Nankai earthquake, which might strike at any time, could kill more people than four atomic bombs.”

A sobering and compelling narrative of calamity.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-25397-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

Did you like this book?