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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

In The Woods Of Memory - A Book Review

War is Hell

Attributed to William Techumseh Sherman, a U.S. army general during that country’s Civil War (1861-1865), the oft-uttered phrase has come to express the opinion of nearly everyone involved within an armed conflict…

But it has also come to epitomize the anguish of everyone on the periphery of war… and how it effects far more than the men and women dodging a hail of bullets or having choking waves of mustard gas thrown at them or atomic weaponry exploding them into oblivion.

It affects civilians.

Hellish nightmares don’t merely infect the mind during a conflict, it stays with people, across the decades… across generations even.

Sherman (and his famous War is Hell phrase) is actually better known for his concept of Total War… a military scheme that not only attacks the enemy’s military, but also any civilian-associated resources and structure.

In other words, there is no safety for anyone when war is declared.

A few months back, I received an advance review copy of In The Woods Of Memory, written by Japanese author Medoruma Shun (surname first), and published by Stone Bridge Press (

Okay: Holy fug it’s a very good book.

Having to stop for dinner, it was otherwise read in one sitting, as I simply could not put the book down. I couldn’t… it sucked me in… and held me… daring me to look away… but I couldn’t…

The book takes place in 1945 and 2005—the later the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa.

Each chapter of the 209-page fiction (but really, non-fiction) book uses a different person’s voice—while tripping back and forth through eras—to provide us with a glimpse of how war was hell for the people of Okinawa in 1945, and how it remains a hell in 2005.

In The Woods Of Memory begins with the rape of a 15-year-old Japanese girl by four U.S. soldiers, during the Battle of Okinawa.

Having recently watched a cooking show on Okinawa, I was struck by two things:
  1. The Okinawans physically look different from the Japanese.
  2. Okinawans refer to themselves as Okinawan first, and not necessarily as Japanese second.
In The Woods Of Memory continues with a revenge factor from a young Japanese boy.

The story looks at multiple views of the story—from different angles… different sexes… different mind-sets… different levels of sanity.

In The Woods Of Memory… I don’t want to give the story away any more than I have… but dammit… it’s a very well-written and translated book.

From one writer to another… I really loved how author Medoruma wrote these chapters… from the jumbling of thoughts of 1945 Seiji character, to the 2005 Kayo character with aspects written in the confounding 2nd person narrative.

Maybe I love HOW the book was written because I once used different styles to affect different voices in a story: First-person (I), second-person (You), third-person (The)… and something I called 4th person because I have no idea if there’s a term for it, that involves two people talking about the main character who doesn’t have a voice of his own. I used this technique 25+ years ago…

The main character doesn’t really have a voice to explain what they went through and are going through? Yeah... I used that technique...

That actually happens in the book In The Woods Of Memory… the rape victim doesn’t directly speak, but does actually speak via the words and actions of others who are telling their own story.

Within In The Woods Of Memory, blame can easily be placed upon the bad Americans… and even the good… and it is… but it’s also placed upon the bad Japanese… the bad neighbors… bad family… bad parents… classmates… … and just because you do nothing, isn’t that even worse… and how the only person with any guts is… well…

You really need to buy a copy of In The Woods Of Memory by author Medoruma Shun, published by Stone Bridge Press (

Really, really, really.

It’s not just a book about different cultures, rather it’s a look inside the human psyche… and how war, is merely a part of the backdrop… yeah, war is hell, General Sherman… but really, it’s the people who make it so.

In The Woods Of Memory… a double entendre title if there ever was one.

The story is the first novel translated into English by Akutagawa Prize winner and Okinawan author Medoruma.

In The Woods Of Memory is on sale as of June 13, 2017. Buy yourself a copy and buy one for someone else.

Andrew Joseph


  1. What's the original Nihingo title?

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Zachery. I had responded to my buddy Matthew with a personal e-mail ad forgot to do the same to his request here. D'uh. Much appreciated.