Book Review// This Light Between Us

This Light Between Us: A Novel of World War II by Andrew Fukuda

Goodreads Synopsis:

In 1935, ten-year-old Alex Maki from Bainbridge Island, Washington is disgusted when he’s forced to become pen pals with Charlie Levy of Paris, France–a girl. He thought she was a boy. In spite of Alex’s reluctance, their letters continue to fly across the Atlantic–and along with them the shared hopes and dreams of friendship. Until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the growing Nazi persecution of Jews force them to confront the darkest aspects of human nature.

From the desolation of an internment camp on the plains of Manzanar to the horrors of Auschwitz and the devastation of European battlefields, the only thing they can hold onto are the memories of their letters. But nothing can dispel the light between them.

Published: January 7, 2020

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed reading this novel! It was a new take on World War II historical fiction novels that I normally read. This book’s premise is about a Japanese-American boy named Alex who lives in Washington, and occurs immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. This novel shone a light on internment camps in America during World War II. The Japanese internment camps in America is not a widely known historical fact – I learned about the internment camps when I was in elementary school and again in my high school’s mandatory Canadian history course in Grade 10. The most focus on history during World War II was on the internment camps in Europe at this time, there was not much shared and taught to us about Canada and the U.S.

I liked the format of how the novel was told in bits and pieces of letters sent between Alex and Charlie, who Alex thought was a boy at first but was actually a girl living in Paris. I thought that the pace of the novel was a bit slow to start, however Fukuda did an excellent job at describing the youthfulness between Alex and Charlie.

 “They are only people – good people – who are now too busy and tired and distracted, trying to survive in these difficult times. But this is how evil grows no? When good people are too tired.”

The continued used of letters once Alex is deployed to Europe was a great way for Fukuda to help the reader understand what Alex is experiencing and what the situation is like in Europe during World War II. I found myself to be cautious of what Alex is stating in his letters to his brother, and it had me wondering if he was editing some of the more gruesome details out for his family.

There is a contrast throughout the novel to what is happening to the Japanese-Americans in America, to what the Jewish community was experiencing at the same time in Europe.  There were a lot of similarities between Alex and Charlie, his pen-pal, and what the Nazi’s were doing in Europe. Some of the similarities were the removal of the father figures from the family, as well as destroying anything that resembles their heritage and culture. Both groups of people were sent to internment camps, but those in Europe were far worse than that in America.

The only reason why this book wasn’t a 5/5 was because of the hallucinations that Alex experienced. He saw Charlie in the internment camp in America when she wasn’t there. This illusion of Charlie convinced Alex to join the army to not only have the opportunity to meet in person, but to get his father back to his family from where he was being held.  I understand why Fukuda added this element to the novel, but it threw me for a loop.

** I received this novel from NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge in exchange for an honest review**

One thought on “Book Review// This Light Between Us

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