Oh!: A mystery of 'mono no aware' by Todd Shimoda, and beautifully illustrated by Todd’s wife, is a phenomenal experience. The copy I received from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program was the final production copy. When I held the package in my hands, I wondered why in the world the package was so heavy. Even its arrival created a mystery! I opened the package and held one of the most beautiful books I have ever had the pleasure of seeing – and I work in a library. The cover design is a delight and the pages inside are silky like a fine art book. The chapter dividers are textured to match the beautiful artwork which adds to the story. I could not wait to see how the internal story would hold up to the external package.
I was not disappointed in any way. Shimoda’s story follows Japanese American Zach Hara, a young man who leaves his mundane job and part-time girlfriend in the United States to travel to Japan, hoping to find any emotion within himself. Zack seeks his ancestral past and in the process begins to teach English in a town close to the Aokigahara Forest, which my husband immediately recognized as the place where many people have gone to commit group suicide. Zach’s world becomes wrapped up in one of his students – an elderly gentleman who attempts to help Zach find emotive feelings by focusing on the theory of mono no aware - which might be loosely translated as the sadness of beautiful things. Turning page after beautiful page, the reader is treated to poetry written by Zach, again enhancing the story. Zach becomes immersed in the mystery of his grandfather’s life, the mystery of the disappearance of a young girl, and the mystery of why people commit suicide in groups. Ultimately I think he feels deeply. The writing is exquisite and the last page is as much a joy as the first. I could not put this book down and when I was done I was certain that I understood 'mono no aware'.
The author discusses the evolution of the book on his blog. He also shares how the artwork for the book was chosen. My favorite quote I have seen about this book is from NPR: Oh! was selected for National Public Radio's summer reading list. NPR reviewer Lucia Silva called it "a triumphant kick in the pants for anyone who doubts the future of paper-and-ink books." I could not agree more – this was a phenomenal experience and at the end all I could say was OH! And three weeks later, I am still thinking about it and can’t wait until my friend finishes it and we can talk about it and find our own emotions play all over the pages. Exceptional read!
TITLE: Oh!: A mystery of 'mono no aware'
AUTHOR: Todd Shimoda (beautifully illustrated by Linda Shimoda)
COPYRIGHT: June 1, 2009
TYPE: fiction, self-discovery of emotion within
RECOMMEND: Another even more stunningly beautiful book that I cannot forget.
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