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The Gods of Heavenly Punishment

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  688 Ratings  ·  192 Reviews
In this evocative and thrilling epic novel, fifteen-year-old Yoshi Kobayashi, child of Japan’s New Empire, daughter of an ardent expansionist and a mother with a haunting past, is on her way home on a March night when American bombers shower her city with napalm—an attack that leaves one hundred thousand dead within hours and half the city in ashen ruins. In the days that ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 11th 2013 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2012)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
There's a lot going on in this novel, but it's not as hard to follow as it may seem at the start. It traces the lives of several American and Japanese people before, during, and after World War II. Some of them are friends, suddenly cast into enemy positions because their countries are at war.

The firebombing of Tokyo is central to the story simply because it's the definitive separation between "before" and "after," but the novel is multi-layered. There's not a great deal of space given to the f
Heather Fineisen
Jan 15, 2016 Heather Fineisen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
Sometimes characters stick with you and that is the case with those in this Novel. A bit predictable in some areas, but offers a fresh perspective on prewar Japan through architecture and airmen. Americans in Japan and Japanese in America before and after war. "A guy should learn something, he'd written to Lacy, about a place he's about to bomb." I agree.

Provided by publisher.
Chilling, absorbing, unique, humorous and heart-breaking. All those adjectives come to mind when I think to describe Jennifer Cody Epstein's book "The God's of Punishment." It's part historical account churned with love stories and family dysfunction. It's character-driven in the most powerful of ways. This is a book I will remember among the many this year.

I have read several accounts of the war between America and Japan, but none so specifically personal as this one. The characters are captiva
Jan 29, 2013 Joanna rated it it was amazing
A lush and eloquent portrait of humanity. This heartbreaking, sensual and suspenseful novel opened my eyes to some grim and also inspiring realities about the second World War. As with her previous novel, The Painter From Shanghai, Jennifer Cody Epstein has done extensive research and manages to convey details with a masterful touch. Read this book!
Jun 12, 2013 Erin rated it liked it
Find the enhanced version of this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

Jennifer Cody Epstein's The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is unlike any WWII fiction I've ever picked up. In many ways it is a personal story, driven by individual experiences, but at the same time it is a war story, shaped by the contention of two nations vying to defeat one another.

As far as favorite character, it is a toss-up between Hana and Anton. Hana is glamorous, intelligent, but emotionally com
Bob James
May 29, 2013 Bob James rated it it was amazing
I had a chance to review this book on Fiction Addict ( You can get more great fiction recommendations there. Here is the review.

As I read The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, I felt as if I was slowly flipping through an album of snapshots showing an amazing period of history. We often think when looking at our friends’ snapshots, “if only these pictures could tell me their story.” In this case, Jennifer Cody Epstein had the characters step out of their pict
Dec 04, 2012 Shelley rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
Disclaimer: I received this ARC from W.W. Norton & Company.

This is a lovely book that I read over the course of a few hours.

I feel compelled to add that it broke my heart. It isn't a criticism, but a testimony to the skill with which Ms. Epstein captured the horrors of this theater of war. If you aren't familiar with the Doolittle Raids, the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, or the American bombing of Tokyo, there may be parts that are difficult to read.

(If you are familiar with these thin
May 21, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Learning new things is my favorite part about reading. This book opened my eyes to the events in Japan both before and after WWII. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is told from the point of view of a young Japanese girl, certainly like nothing I've read before.

The characters lives are interconnected in interesting, yet plausible, ways. The men and women that people this story are convincing and genuine. Days after reading this I can't stop thinking of th
Jill Meyer
Jun 28, 2016 Jill Meyer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It takes a special writer to produce an "epic" novel. "Epic" and "sweeping" imply a great breadth of a story line in terms of both time and characters. Jennifer Cody Epstein deserves kudos for her new novel, "The Gods of the Heavenly Punishment", which takes the reader from Tokyo 1935 to Los Angeles 1962, with characters who are as different as Japanese and Americans can be in that era. The unifying point of the novel is a green ring that survives both love and war and brings those two "differen ...more
May 16, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it
Epstein has crafted a novel that moves back and forth between multiple third-person narratives. Throughout, she keeps the book moving forward in time as she shifts settings, from 1935 Hamburg, New York to 1962 Los Angeles and gradually begins to intertwine her characters.

I suppose the novel could be called "sweeping" moving as it does through time and back and forth across the Pacific. Curiously, I never felt like I was being swept up in a massive story; Epstein makes the novel very much the int
May 17, 2013 Melinda rated it liked it
I had great expectations for this book. There are not that many books, at least not that many that I've come across that tell of World War II from the Japanese perspective. And the book starts out strong, giving us a tableau of the world from which Yoshi hails. However, it is right after this first chapter that the book starts to fall off the rails for me. We meet Cam and Lacy, a young couple from New York, who don't really seem to have anything to do with Yoshi. Then, BOOM!, we're in World War ...more
May 31, 2013 Patricia rated it it was amazing
The horrendous atrocities of war and the delicate strength of the human spirit are all wrapped up in this novel about the firebombing of Tokyo during World War II. THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT is a work of art and beauty and I will read it again to ease the tensions which continue to cross my mind and disrupt my awareness.

“I dare you to read this and not be swept up. THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT is shocking and delicate in equal measure.” Debra Dean, author, of THE MADONNAS Of LENINGRAD (
May 20, 2013 Harvee rated it it was amazing
About the book: A story of the war between the Japanese and the Americans in WWII, the atrocities of war on both sides, the innocent families and people affected both in the U.S. and in Japan. The fire bombing of the city of Tokyo in 1945 when innocent civilians were killed or maimed is, I believe, the reason for the title, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment.

My comments: I was confused while reading the book. I didn't know whether I should hate the Japanese for their war atrocities and killing dow
Linda Bridges
Jul 31, 2013 Linda Bridges rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-books
This book about Japan during World War II is beautifully researched and authentic. It weaves the stories of Billy Reynolds, Yoshi Kobayashi, and Cam Richards around the bombing of Tokyo. Raised in Japan until things heated up between the Japanese and the U.S., Billy ended up going back to the U.S. with his parents and eventually returned to Japan as an occupation soldier. Cam Reynolds, a pilot who crash-landed after bombing Tokyo, became a Japanese prisoner-of-war. Yoshi was the daughter of a g ...more
Deon Stonehouse
The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein 9780393071573
Three lives are tragically linked in this beautifully written, haunting story of wartime Japan. Cam Richards adores his wife Lacy, he has everything to live for when he climbs into the cockpit of his plane and heads toward Tokyo on a daredevil fire bombing raid that will decimate the city. Yoshi’s Mom was multi-lingual, western educated and drop dead gorgeous, and her Dad was a very traditional Japanese man with a successful b
May 26, 2013 Marg rated it really liked it
It is probably not a huge surprise to those of you who have followed my blog for some time to learn that as soon as I heard about this book I wanted to read it! A well-written book set against the backdrop of World War II. Yes, please! I had intended to read the author's debut novel after hearing many good things about it but I haven't yet done so.

I was, however, very pleasantly surprised to find that this book was so much more than just another war story. Jennifer Cody Epstein has written a lov
Roger Brunyate
Jun 28, 2016 Roger Brunyate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2
Love Stories, War Stories

Ignore the obscure title and the lackluster cover of this book; it is approachable, subtle, and well worth reading. Well, perhaps there is more you need to ignore: the opening scene of a shy young man and lively girl falling in love at a state fair outside Buffalo in 1935 may make you fear some light romance, though it is well written and swiftly developed. For we then move to Japan in the same year to a more complex situation: a Czech-born American architect and his Jap
Peter  Fokes
Sep 18, 2013 Peter Fokes rated it really liked it
Plenty of fine reviews of this book on Goodreads already so I'll only add a few words. I'm surprised no one mentioned the polished "smoky green" ring with the "ornate silver scrollwork." Pay close attention to journey of the ring from person to person, and the wide-range of emotions associated with the ring by the various characters. From good luck charm to symbol of greed to memento of loss, the ring gives cohesion to the episodic storytelling of Epstein's well-researched and crisply written no ...more
Feb 06, 2013 SeaTreasure rated it it was amazing
One of the best novels that I have read in a long time! Relating the tale of 3 families who's lives are interwoven and irrevocably changed by the bombing of Toyko during WWII. The author has shown the human side of war and how if effects both the losers and the victors, both paying a price way too high. A book that will touch you deeply as you turn the tear stained pages. Ms. Epstein has written a best seller!
Wow. This was just... delicious. I love reading historical novels about 20th century Japan, and the mix of romance, intrigue, and war-time happenings found in this book was equal parts intriguing and addicting. Gorgeous writing, interesting characters, a satisfying ending - in summary, a fantastic read!
Jun 26, 2013 Val rated it really liked it
This book has a unique perspective on WWII - it follows both Japanese characters and American, and spans decades and 3 countries. Not all the characters are likable, in fact, most are not, but the story it tells remains gripping and true. It is a worthy addition to anyone interested in this time period.
Jul 12, 2013 Connie rated it it was amazing
An unexpected treat. I had not heard or read about this book, just picked it up from the new book shelf in the library. It is a beautifully told story of the impact of WWII on two families - one Japanese and one American. Honest without being gruesome and caring without cheap emotionalism.
Dec 08, 2013 Hillary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: author-friends
With the drama and sweep of THE ENGLISH PATIENT and a rich, painterly sensibility all her own, Jennifer Cody Epstein has created an indelible portrait of the war in the Pacific, seen through the eyes of six characters whose stories will haunt you long after the final brush stroke.
Michelle (True Book Addict)
I have not read much historical fiction set during WWII. Not sure if I have shied away due to a lack of interest in the era, or for some other reason. I'm happy to say that Jennifer's book has opened my eyes to the possibility of great historical novels set during the time period.

This book did a great job of making me care about its characters and there lies its strength. Each character is well written and I found myself completely immersed in their stories, almost like I was there.

The historica
Esther Bradley-detally
May 01, 2013 Esther Bradley-detally rated it it was amazing
An insightful and compelling story about both Japanese and American cultures and their experiences during World War II. Portrays the horrors of war through human beings affected. The people are wonderful done, and it is a novel rich in drama. I couldn't put it down.
Leah (Books Speak Volumes)
Apr 26, 2015 Leah (Books Speak Volumes) rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is a sweeping epic spanning from 1935 to 1962 and centering on the war between the US and Japan. In a format that I have really grown to like, it tells the stories of multiple families and individuals, how the war affects them, and how they are connected.

In the first chapter, we meet Cam, a young man falling in love with a girl named Lacy. When next we see Cam, he is a pilot in the Doolittle Raid, the first US air raid to strike Japan during WWII.

In another chapte
Jul 14, 2013 Linda rated it it was amazing
Jennifer Cody Epstein aims big and hits her targets head on without flinching - beware! She covers the WWII Pacific theatre on all fronts: U.S. military and civilian, Japanese military and civilian, Manchurian civilian and Japanese occupation, and the U.S. occupation of Japan. Love, lust, death, atrocities, desolation and desperation, it's all there in various (and rare) perspectives not hard to keep track of.

Epstein has done her research, particularly impressive regarding B-25 bombers. Her writ
Erin Al-Mehairi
Jun 15, 2013 Erin Al-Mehairi rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, by Jennifer Cody Epstein, is a brilliant, epic novel that is an emotionally character driven look into a part of World War II not always featured heavily in historical fiction work.

It gives the reader a glimpse, through the eyes of every day characters, the life pre- and post part of the war that occurs between America and Japan. It impacts our soul by concentrating on the result these horrors of war has on actual life.

However, the book does more than br
Jul 29, 2013 Claire rated it really liked it
So let me start off by saying this, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment caught me off guard. When offered a copy of this book for review I was interested you could say. Nothing about it screamed WOW or adventurous but I was interested. Yes.
Then I started the book. It started off well, Epstein is a brilliant writer who is able to make characters seem so very alive- it's almost magical how she does it. Then the book became amazing. My favourite chapters were those done through Yoshi's persp
Jun 28, 2013 Patty rated it really liked it
WWII is a popular time period for historical fiction right now but I must acknowledge that Ms. Epstein takes her reader to a different time and place than most of the books I have read lately. It was very interesting to read a novel taking place in Japan as the US starts its offensive and retaliation for Pearl Harbor.

I have to admit to a sad lack of knowledge of the who/what/where etc., of WWII and of the Eastern front in particular. This is good for me as a reader of a novel because I don't com
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