from the ashes

9780312384777I was introduced to the works of Gail Tsukiyama a little over a year ago when I signed up to take a course on character analysis. After reading The Samurai’s Garden, I was eager to read more of Tsukiyama’s works but became sidetracked with other books in the “to read” pile(s). Last week, I finally picked up the copy of The Street of a Thousand Blossoms that had been waiting on my shelf for far too long.

Part of what I love about Tsukiyama’s writing is that she creates a kind of tapestry of lives, her characters becoming entwined and revealing the complexities of the human condition. Tsukiyama’s lyrical prose is bittersweet, capturing the imagination with its balance of joy and tragedy.

The Street of a Thousand Blossoms presents a tableau, weaving together the tales of brothers Hiroshi and Kenji, and sisters Haru and Aki. For Hiroshi, the dream of becoming a sumo champion represents the path by which he can restore the spirit of the Japan. Kenji finds peace in mask-making, the art of Noh providing him with the means of expression that he lacked as a child. For Haru and Aki the pride of Japan and tradition take on a different meaning. Haru finds hope after the loss of her mother in the bright green promise of a sapling, turning to nature and botany to find her peace, while Aki turns inward, becoming the silent ghost of the piece as she falls into a deep depression and turns to her mother’s picture for solace. As their four stories become one, the reader is drawn into a tale about honor and tradition, inspiration and regret.