#BookReview: "Kaerou - Time to Go Home" by B. Jeanne Shibahara

§ I received a copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel. § 

"KA-E-RO-U is a testimony to the human spirit that bridges differences and overcomes divisions, so different from the spirit that prevailed in the 1930s and 1940s and sent our grandparents and parents to war."

This is how Kaerou is defined by Elione Gerbert and the founding name of the book reflects the plot:

After Meryl's husband dies, she finds a Japanese flag stained with blood in his belongings from the war. It turns out that Japanese soldiers carried those with them with written messages from their loves ones on them. When the soldiers fell, the flag would be returned to their families. Now Meryl wants to return "her" flag to the respective family. So she embarks on the journey of a life-time and travel to Osaka in Japan. Once there, she faces a whole new culture, meets her son's friends, and discovers more about herself.

While this sounds like a touching read, I felt that it was chaotic at times. There are well-written passages that introduce you to the characters but sometimes those were over three pages long. This did not only cause me to lose the plot but becomes annoying because either the character is never mentioned anywhere again. The option is that you are introduced to various characters and you are meant to remember who is who after being info-dumped. This does not happen, instead you get lost, forget or mix up names. I felt that it would have been much smoother to intertwine those facts with the plot and spew this info throughout the book instead of all at once.

In regards of the plot, I am hard pressed to even find a constant one. The prompt is the Japanese flag, through it Meryl has to get out of her comfort zone and go on an adventure. But it only takes up around 50 pages of the book.

Then there is Meryl with her "new flame" Greg who ... is in the States dog-sitting. But as soon as Meryl returns, it suddenly turns into a bubbly romance. Turn one page and they are married now. The crush had been evidente, but it lacked any kind of build-up: an adventure together, phone-calls, flirting.

Instead there had only been a moment but at that point, I had already forgotten who this Greg might be. The only relationship that is discussed is Mr. Ono's hopeless and slightly worrisome crush on his English teacher. Aside from the comic relief it never really goes anywhere. Sufficient to say, romance is not the strongest point of this novel.

Kaerou - Time to Go Home by B. Jeanne Shibahara
The most interesting and on point of the war-themed Kaerou is Ms. Kawanishi's time as she grew up during the war. It had been touching, painful and even included a love story. It showed best what it had been like and how the relationship between countries had changed. I feel that this is what the book should have been like, but it is not.

Instead Ms. Kawanishi's 's story is an over 50 pages long intermission to the main plot. So it was a beautiful and touching story, that did nothing but disrupt the pace of the book. Even worse is that aside from her stream of consciousness no character learns of this story. Thus, it does nothing to add to the main events which leaves you wondering ...

I can see what Shibahara tired to do with Kaerou: show that love wins and what war stripped from the people. It is a very hard topic to beautifully and touchingly portray.

As someone who is highly sensitized in regards of WWII - even if it comes from a different perspective - I know what a fine line this is to walk on. At no point is Shibahara disrespectful of the cruelty of the war. She discusses the soldier mindset as well - who can be loving husbands and fathers but also drop bombs during weekdays.

However, the story telling lacks the character to turn all of this knowledge, stories, and character building into an emphatic read. I wish that she had only chosen between one of the three plots, instead of telling them exclusively parallel and almost unrelated to one another.

Despite this, Shibahara introduces and explains part of Japanese city life in Osaka. There are facts that you can't find with a quick google search. So you not only learn a lot about wartime Japan but also of the nightlife in Osaka.

Furthermore, the cover is beautiful. It is based on the drawings "Another Springtime With You" and "The Stream of Fireflies" by Shinko Yamagucki.

All in all you can tell that "Kaerou Time to Go Home" has a heart, and what its message is meant to be. So it pains me that it is not well executed and its heart alone can't save it from an only two flower rating ...

Kaerou Time to Go Home by B. Jeanne Shibahara
Published2018(self published)
Goodreads:Add to shelf


amazon.com  |  amazon.de 


  1. This doesn’t sound like my kind of read.

  2. Too bad, it had such promise...

  3. Fantastic review. I don't think that this would be a book that I would enjoy.

    1. Thank you! I fear it was a bit chaotic :/

  4. Sorry to hear this was a bit of a miss for you. Great review though.
    Gemma @ Gemma's Book Nook

  5. I love an honest review!

    1. I always try to be honest even when I am given a book in exchange of a review.

  6. great honest review sorry to hear it was a bit of a miss for you

  7. So sorry it didn't work for you. Not good when it's a great plot but not well executed.


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