Gretel Ehrlich’s Facing the Wave (Book Acquired, Some Time Earlier This Month)


Got into this a bit the other day. Last year, a reader sent me a copy of Ehrlich’s The Future of Ice, which was nice, but I could never really get into it. Anyway, like the cover on this one. Blurb from publisher Pantheon (you can also read an excerpt here):

From one of the preeminent and most admired observers of the natural world, a heartrending and inspirational portrait of Japan after the 2011 tsunami, when survivors found their world utterly transformed by loss, grief, destruction, and the urgent need to reconstruct their homes, their towns, and their lives.

A passionate student of Japanese poetry, theater, and art for much of her life, Gretel Ehrlich felt compelled to return to the earthquake-and-tsunami-devastated Tohoku coast to bear witness, listen to survivors, and experience their terror and exhilaration in villages and towns where all shelter and hope seemed lost. In an eloquent narrative that blends strong reportage, poetic observation, and deeply felt reflection, she takes us into the upside-down world of northeastern Japan, where nothing is certain and where the boundaries between living and dying have been erased by water.

The stories of rice farmers, monks, and wanderers; of fishermen who drove their boats up the steep wall of the wave; and of an eighty-four-year-old geisha who survived the tsunami to hand down a song that only she still remembered are both harrowing and inspirational. Facing death, facing life, and coming to terms with impermanence are equally compelling in a landscape of surreal desolation, as the ghostly specter of Fukushima Daiichi, the nuclear power complex, spews radiation into the ocean and air. Facing the Wave is a testament to the buoyancy, spirit, humor, and strong-mindedness of those who must find their way in a suddenly shattered world.

1 thought on “Gretel Ehrlich’s Facing the Wave (Book Acquired, Some Time Earlier This Month)”

  1. I liked ‘The Future of Ice’, but found it discontinuous. It would have been better as a series of short stories. I do like the mind of G.E., and am looking forward to reading about the Tsunami since she probably covers the ‘spiritual’ story also. After the Tsunami It was discomforting to observe that Japan is not one big cohesive tribe, and that the survivors were just that in many cases and that the society did not close ranks around them.


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