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Strong in the Rain: Surviving Japan's Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  129 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
Blending history, science, and gripping storytelling, Strong in the Rain brings the 9.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan in 2011 and its immediate aftermath to life through the eyes of the men and women who experienced it. Following the narratives of six individuals, the book traces the shape of a disaster and the heroics it prompted, including that of David Chumreon ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 30th 2012 by Palgrave Macmillan
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Margaret Sankey
Dec 30, 2012 rated it liked it
An early entry in what is sure to be a steady stream of accounts of Japan's triple catastrophe, this work by two western journalists lays out the contours of Japan's reaction to the event in broad themes illustrated by a handful of personal stories. Where communities had traditional mayors who insisted on drills, school swimming lessons, high floodgates, conservative city zoning and people listened to the fishing families who knew what to do, people survived. In general, Japanese civilians obeye ...more
May 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As the blurbs on the back cover indicate, this is surely one of the best books written about the Japan’s March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. McNeill and Birmingham are both journalists stationed in Japan with Japanese families and their own stakes in what happened. They give us a graphic depiction of what it was and is like there, telling things not disclosed before and possibly still not known by many Japanese people. They focus on several individuals from various aspects of li ...more
Linda Lipko
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm, not sure what to say about this book. There are many positive things, and yet, it seems as though it is very disjointed. Consistently while reading, I had to go back a few pages to find a link. Two writers were trying to tell a story and yet the tapestry wasn't woven in a manner that made a solid piece of art.

The positive thing about this book is that the authors did a credible job of adequately portraying the terror felt when a level nine earthquake occurred primarily in the northern regio
Rachel Wilhelm
Aug 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was particularly interested in the personal accounts of the five Japanese people profiled. It gave a remarkable insight into what the average Japanese citizen was experiencing at the time as well as a bigger picture of Japanese culture. The history of Japan's reliance on nuclear energy was also eye-opening. I had no idea the nation was so reliant and the reasons behind it. Lessons applicable for every nation ... as I read the book I continually thought of New Orleans in terms of an over-relian ...more
May 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Throughout this entire book, from beginning to end, I kept coming back to the big and mostly unanswered question, "Why? Why did this happen?"

As I was reading other Goodread's reviews of this book, I came across the following comment: "It is human nature to want to absorb as much information on a disaster as is possible, in part, so that you can prevent it from happening again." Exactly what I was thinking.

Why would a country that has experienced for entire lifetimes the ravages of the Hiroshima
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent research and analysis of what happened in the quake/tsunami/nuclear disaster of 2011. I found the actual facts and figures fascinating and it answered many questions I had. Enough human interest to tie it together and keep it from getting too dry.
M.L. Sparrow
Sep 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is great for anyone who wants to know more about the 2011 earthquake and the disasters that resulted from it. Don’t be expecting a fictional story though, this is more like a fact book describing first-hand accounts from survivors, giving you the facts and figures, along with scientific explanations. I found it very eye opening, because though I obviously knew about the disaster, I’d never really comprehended just how bad it had been, especially the parts about the nuclear ‘meltdown’, ...more
May 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
I got Strong in the Rain through the Librarything Early Reviewer program because I was interested in understanding the experience of what the people of Japan had gone through when the earthquake and tsunami hit. It is human nature to want to absorb as much information on a disaster as is possible, in part so that you can prevent it from happening again, and in part because of the compassion we hold for others. I knew people in the country at the time and this book helped me to understand the fee ...more
Alyce (At Home With Books)
Oct 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In March of 2011 a 9.0 earthquake struck Japan, followed shortly thereafter by a devastating Tsunami. These set in motion the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

In Strong in the Rain the authors tell the stories of six survivors from areas affected by the disasters. Their stories are written in the third person, and even with the occasional historical background information (how the communities planned, built and trained for tsunamis for example), the real-life horrors that they faced make the tension p
May 04, 2016 rated it liked it
This is an interesting narrative of the events leading up to and following the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan. I enjoyed the personal stories, although I got people a little confused since the timeline line would advance and circle back to each individual. This is partly my fault. I didn't take the time to try to remember each individual or tie their story back to the correct person--a downside of my quasi-skim reading.

I would have like to had more content in the b
Jan 11, 2016 rated it liked it
I knew only a little about Japan when I went there for my internship and almost nothing at all about Sendai (despite seeing all of the footage about the earthquake and tsunami). So it was a little strange to read about descriptions of the people in the Tohoku region that matched my own interactions with them, and even with their experiences with the tragedy of 3/11. The book glossed over some negative interactions between Japan and the US, which I had heard rumored of while in Japan. However, th ...more
Thomas Norman
Aug 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
A myriad of poignant accounts which also observe numerous failures conducive to the death toll (e.g. inadequate tsunami barriers, poorly planned safety points, complacency with issued warnings due to prior false alerts). People's actions and experiences as tragedy unfolds are revealing of their core disposition and the book's a fascinating insight into individuals' mentality during an extreme ordeal.

My two primary complaints are:

1 - Anecdotes are disjointed, no clear organisation when switching
Daniel Simmons
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Weirdly uncompelling for an account of such dramatic and terrible events. I liked the idea of following a few affected individuals as they suffered through and then tried to recover from the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, but their stories were jumbled together with few clear narrative lines, and I never got more than a skin-deep sense of their fears, hopes, and struggles (the one exception is a brief and heartbreaking moment where a nuclear plant worker makes the decision to stay single, ...more
Oct 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Through what six families went through this "triple-disaster", this book, published one year after the event, allowed us to have a thought-provoking review of how ordinary Japanese faced with all the various challenges. Some of the predictions really are on the way, such as the recent re-opening of reactors in Japan! It also pinpointed how the government failed to look after their citizens such as raising the threshold and withholding information and even telling lies! It also includes some scie ...more
Juliana Rose
Sep 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
I found this book highly disappointing.

As someone who followed the Fukushima disaster, I was still quite confused and picked up this book in hopes to learn much more about it. Honestly, I didn't learn much at all.

It seemed completely disjointed, like it was thrown together at random. It actually confused me more and I closed the last page without having the majority of my questions answered.
Marion Kelly
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I found this book informative , well written . Tells the stories of a few people directly affected by this catastrophe and also provides data regarding the reactor situation. We have family ( daughter & family .. Canadian working in Japan 13 yrs, living approx 150 K south of the reactors , ) so found this book most informative. They now have the e book and can relate to what has happened in the lived of re people . Good book, not a sit down and read right through type though !
May 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, japan
Fascinating look at the earthquake, the tsunami and the aftermath. I liked the opportunity to meet individuals and hear their stories. I also appreciated the broader overview to explain what was happening in the government, with the utility company and world wide in response to the catastrophe. This was a different and broader look that Gretel Erlich's book. Both were very good.
Pamela Okano
Apr 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I gave this a four, but would have preferred 3.5. The subject matter is very timely--the stories of ordinary people who went through the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster. Yet I thought the book could have been better written, or at least edited better. It had the feel of "let's rush this to print."
Mar 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Content: interesting and difficult to organize; wanders a bit. Form: I wish the editor were more attentive to language--some pronoun and usage errors. Also wish info-graphics were more disciplined and better integrated.
Gerald Matzke
Mar 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I found this to be a very compelling book because of the unusual combination of understandable science and personal stories. The authors also included some insight into Japanese culture which at times served as a hindrance to survival.
Dylan Suher
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
For informational purposes, perfectly adequate. Some good journalism here, but also some prose/narrative that tinges purple and some journalism that looks yellow. Evan Osnos' two pieces on the Tsunami are better written and dig deeper.
Lil Jen
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Powerful and easy to follow narrative of the disaster that overtook Japan. I was captivated by the 5 stories of survivors and how they and their families have picked up and dealt with such a disaster.
Dec 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A awesome read!
Amanda Van
I think the book is very factual. Also, what I mean by factual is that it provides a lot of information, which is good for a non-fiction book.
rated it liked it
Nov 01, 2015
Judy Serreze
rated it it was amazing
Jan 28, 2013
Ben Woodward
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Lucy Birmingham is TIME magazine’s Tokyo-based reporter and covered the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. Since coming to Japan in the mid-1980s, her work has appeared in Bloomberg News, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Forbes, Fortune, The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, and U.S. News and World Report. A board member of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan ...more
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