Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Toraware by Robert W. Norris

I wrote this review Sunday night for Curledup.com with the intentions of posting it yesterday morning...so I'm a day late, but here it is. I loved this book and chances are you won't be able to find it in the bookstore as it was published by a fairly independent press. It is available on Amazon though and I highly recommend it if it sounds like something you'd be interested in. It's a haunting look at a slice of lives set in Japan.

Everything else is settling into place. The funeral is set for Thursday and I'll be off of work for that. Unfortunately I haven't accrued any vacation time yet so it will be an unpaid day off, but I don't mind. I'll be finished training after this week and I'll actually start seeing clients on Monday!

So here's the review:

Human emotions, dark pasts, trials & tribulation, and complicated relationships are nothing new in literature. These are all common themes in countless novels and we’ve seen the same scenario play out time and time again. Every now and then, an author comes along and makes these themes special though and strikes the right notes with his or her readers. Robert W. Norris has done this with his novel Toraware.

Toraware is the story of three people living in Japan trying to find their place in the world. Harlan is a writer and a Vietnam War veteran in his early thirties who is unsure what he wants exactly out of life. He has come to Japan to teach English and to experience a new culture. While there he’s met two women who are also trying to find themselves and each has become connected to Harlan. Sachiko has fallen for Harlan and his writing but her feelings are not reciprocated. Sachiko has her own dark past and her own issues to work through and has a hard time dealing with rejection. Yoshiko and Harlan have a much closer relationship, but Harlan will not open up to her. Yoshiko is also fairly promiscuous, has an alcohol problem and also has a dark past stemming from psychological issues.

Toraware is the tale of a universal need for acceptance. As I mentioned before, we’ve seen these themes in other works, but they are presented beautifully here. Norris’ words match the beauty of the Japanese landscapes that he describes. You can tell that Norris has spent quite a bit of time in Japan as reading the novel is somewhat of a study in the culture of Japan. I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect of the novel as Japan has always had a fascinating culture to me. Norris relates to his audience that through language barriers, culture barriers, and gender barriers, we can all relate at the core of what it is to be human.

This book was a great surprise and I look forward to getting to know Norris’ work a little bit better. He’s published a few other books, one of which is actually used to teach English to Japanese students. It’s title is The Many Roads to Japan. Toraware was a book that could be extremely tedious if written by the wrong person seeing as there’s not much action in the book. The book’s main aesthetic is very voyeuristic. The reader is simply a fly on the wall as we experience the characters sorting out their lives. In Norris’ hands, the book is a huge success and a pleasure to read. 4.5/5

(copyright 2007 by Chris Howard for Curled Up With A Good Book)


Stephanie said...

Sweet Review!! I just posted my last review at CurledUp Kids. (Since the books are considered YA!). I love both sites!

I haven't heard of this one. But looks like I will have to add it to my TBR!

Bookfool said...

It's great that they're letting you off without penalizing you, unpaid or not.

Great review, as always.

Chris said...

Stephanie, I love that we get YA books too! I got about half and half for my first package of books. I'm loving Curled up! This book was really great. Enjoyed it a bunch!

Bookfool, They really are great. They told me to take as much time off as I need. Of course I can't do that as I can't afford it and I think I'm fine with just the day off for the funeral. But I really think I found a good company! I thought of you when I was reading this book. I think you'd enjoy this one. It seems like your type of book.

DesLily said...

I wish there was something to say that would make things better for you.. but there never is.. I hope that this new job helps you through one day at a time.. hugs.

oh, and I'm real surprised you enjoyed yet another book.. not!

Debi said...

Hope you and your family are getting along as well as can be expected. My heart goes out to you all!

What a beautiful review! Doesn't sound like the kind of book I would normally gravitate towards, but you definitely made it sound worthwhile.

Dark Orpheus said...

My best wishes to your family. Funerals can be -- difficult. Hope you guys are coping.

And good luck on Monday when you meet your clients.

Nymeth said...

This is not a book I'd normally get interested in, but your review certainly captured my attention. To the wishlist it goes.

I hope you and your family are doing as well as possible, given the situation. It's nice that they are so understanding at your new job too - it really sounds like you're working in a great place and with great people!

Les said...

This sounds like a wonderful book. Thanks for helping my TBR list grow even longer!

Take care tomorrow.

Chris said...

Pat, Thanks for the hugs :) I know, I surprised myself that I liked yet another one...not!

Debi, We're hanging in there! Thanks for the thoughts.

It really was a beautiful book. Very reflective. I enjoyed it!

Dark Orpheus, Thanks on both accounts! Funerals are rough, but the family has really come together in the past few days. We'll get through it.

Nymeth, I felt the same way about this book. Wouldn't normally be interested in something like this but I enjoyed it. It actually reminded me a lot of "Lost in Translation" which is one of my favorite movies. I think you'd enjoy it.

The family is hanging in there and we're getting through things and the job continues to go well! Thanks for your thoughts :)

Les, I have a really bad habit of adding to people's TBR list ;) Of course you all do it to me too so...

I will certainly take care tomorrow. Thanks for your thoughts, Les.

Bellezza said...

"Toraware is the tale of a universal need for acceptance."

For this reason, not to mention a Japanese setting, I'll pick it up.

I think this is a need which is never quite fulfilled in any of us, and if someone says they don't care if they're not accepted I say they're lying. Or sociopathic.

Chris said...

You're absolutely right, Bellezza. All of us have that need to be accepted and it really is never 100% fulfilled...yet we always strive to have it fulfilled 100%. One of those things that keeps life interesting and always leaves a little anxiety! This book really did a beautiful job at examining that idea with three great characters. Like I said, not a very action driven book but it's surprisingly fast moving and still manages to be a page turner. I really enjoyed this one!