Hiroko Tanaka is young and in love when the bomb is dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. In one day, she loses her fiance, her father, her home, and her world. She is left with three burns on her back, which are dubbed "birds" because of their shapes. Her only choice is to go to Delhi, India, where her fiance's sister lives with her husband and son. There she meets Sajjad, and her life is never the same. The novel then moves to Pakistan after the partition, and from there to Manhattan. We are able to see the numerous lives touched by Hiroko and the connections she keeps with her late fiance's family all throughout her long life, even moving into the present war with Afghanistan and Iraq.
At first I wasn't really liking this novel. I guess it was mainly because I didn't know where it was heading, or what I was supposed to focus on. Unfortunately, when I was finally starting to bond with the plot was when the bomg was dropped. That was when I really started paying attention and became involved in the story and in the main character, and I couldn't put it down.
A large part of the novel is difficult to read, especially the scenes in Nagasaki. I didn't know that the bomb almost wasn't dropped that day because of the overcast sky-it was just a small cloud burst that actually allowed the planes to go through with the plan. Wow.
Hiroko herself is a fascinating character. I found it easy to get close to her, and care about her as more than just a character-almost like a friend.
"When Hiroko Ashraf arrived in New York three summers ago, the immigration official-a man with a peace sign tottooed on his forearm-looked quizzically from her face to her Pakistani passport, then heaved a great sigh as he opened the passport and saw her place of birth scrawled beneath her husband's name.
'It's OK,' he said, stamping her passport without asking a single question. 'You'll be safe here.'
What surprised her even more than his hand reaching out to squeeze hers was his obliviousness to irony. She did not share it. A week after India's nuclear tests, with Pakistan's response in kind looming, she didn't see the ache in her back as a result of the long plane ride but rather a sign of her bird's displeasure the she should have chosen this, of all countries, as her place of refuge from the nuclear world." p. 288
After waiting a long time to write this review, all I can say is-what an amazing story, and what a violent century. Really makes you think.