Fiction Dennis Bock The Ash Garden

ISBN 13: 9780375727498

The Ash Garden

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9780375727498: The Ash Garden

Emiko Amai is six years old in August 1945 when the Hiroshima bomb burns away half of her face. To Anton, a young German physicist involved in the Manhattan Project, that same bomb represents the pinnacle of scientific elegance. And for his Austrian wife Sophie, a Jewish refugee, it marks the start of an irreparable fissure in their new marriage.

Fifty years later, seemingly far removed from the day that defined their lives, Emiko visits Anton and Sophie, and in Dennis Bock’s powerfully imagined narrative, their histories converge.

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Review:

The unprecedented impact, ideology, and geographic scope of the Second World War continue to attract new novelists who hammer the history out a little thinner each time, highlighting lesser-known massacres or sifting through minor characters to discover a representative but undiscovered guide. Dennis Bock's poignant book The Ash Garden personalizes the epic bombing of Hiroshima through Anton Böll, a German émigré physicist, and Emiko, a Japanese victim of the bomb. Bombmaker and bombed, they balance this incisive, symmetrical novel and its sustained inquiry into remorse and forgiveness.

One of 25 Hiroshima Maidens relocated from post-war Japan to America for corrective plastic surgery, Emiko remains in the U.S. as a student, then as a filmmaker. The novel is at its best with her, from the heavy losses that surround her recovery in Japan to the awkwardness of immigrating to the nation that is both her tormentor and her savior. Meanwhile, Anton, her opposite number, doesn't just return home from war, he returns having irrevocably changed war. Stubbornly proud of his work and estranged from his isolated, ailing wife, Anton offers no home to remorse, and his conflicted legacy takes a lifetime to heal. Heal it does, though, just as Anton and Emiko meet and begin to discuss their roles in the bombing. The climax may be too much for readers impatient with a Dickensian full-cast ending: like those of John Irving, Bock's symmetries are delightful to discover at the halfway point but disappointingly conspicuous by the novel's close. --Darryl Whetter

From the Back Cover:

“A crystalline meditation on the defining event of the twentieth century and its aftermath . . . Inventive and consistently challenging” –Mark Rozzo, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Mysterious and compelling. . . . An elegant, unnerving novel that illuminates the personal consequences of war.” –Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Exquisite. . . . Bock’s achievement here is in creating characters with believably ambiguous edges, vulnerable people whose understanding of themselves and others is incomplete.” -Janice P. Nimura, The Washington Post Book World

“Bock has shined an illuminating searchlight on the terra incognita where the personal and the political intersect.” –Dan Cryer, Newsday

“A splendid, powerful book, written with authority and admirable control.” –St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Assured and compassionate.” –Pico Iyer, Harper’s

“[T]his brilliant novel traces the lingering effects of the Hiroshima bombing . . . showing how war binds victor and victim as surely as scar tissue closes a wound.” –Rick Waddington, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Reconciliation, responsibility, blame and regret shift and fall in different patterns throughout this moving and thoughtful novel.” –Barbara Fisher, The Boston Globe

“Dennis Bock began The Ash Garden long before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, but it’s impossible now not to read his haunting debut novel outside the glare of that tragedy. . . . Bock sets a match to ethical issues that are reaching the flash point today.” –Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor

“One can go further with this book, and say that Bock has learned just about everything that can be gained from Michael Ondaatje and Jane Urquhart in the use of compelling images. . . . Very, very accomplished.” –T. F. Rigelhof, The Globe & Mail

“This is a gorgeous, poetic novel, with scenes that stun the senses. . . . Bock makes us see and live these lives in all their uneasy compromise.” –Susan Larson, New Orleans Times-Picayune

“For all its worldliness, The Ash Garden feels intimate and interior. . . . [Bock’s] are the battlefields of conscience, the war away from the war.” –Annabel Lyon, National Post

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