In the summer of 2001 Rahna Reiko Rizzuto traveled to Hiroshima to learn more about her family’s heritage by interviewing survivors of the atomic bomb. Her husband stayed home in New York, to take care of their two young sons, and while initially he was enthusiastic and supportive of her trip, he soon begins to grow disenchanted and frustrated with the whole idea. While Rizzuto runs into difficulty with her interviewing and the progression of her project, overall things are going okay – that is, until September 11. When the towers fall, mere miles from her family’s home, past and present collide and Rizzuto suddenly begins to see everything – her heritage, her family, her marriage, her country – in a whole new way.
When I accepted Hiroshima in the Morning for review, for some reason I was thinking it was a novel. And even upon reading it, it took a few pages for me to grasp the fact that I was reading a memoir. Some might say I’m slow, but if you read the beautiful writing Rizzuto has to offer, you might be fooled too! Seriously, the writing is just divine. It’s descriptive and lush, without being showy or over the top. I can recommend this book for the writing alone, it’s that good.
Fortunately, the book has a lot going for it in addition to the writing. It is so important for me to connect with the author of a memoir, and I definitely felt a connection with Rizzuto. She writes with such candor, such beautiful honesty, it’s impossible not to like her. Although I am not a mother myself, I understood her struggle to be both a mother and a researcher at the same time. She missed her children, at times ached for them, but knew deep down at Hiroshima was where she needed to be at that time in her life. I’m sure every mother can relate to this – the tug-of-war between her own goals and the needs and desires of her children.
Hiroshima in the Morning deals with serious subjects, but it never feels heavy-handed. When September 11th happens, the book gets even more serious because the events of that day hit very close to home for Rizzuto (physically and emotionally), and she begins to see the tragedy of Hiroshima differently. At this point, the book becomes more introspective, more about Rizzuto’s family and marriage and less about her research, but she really does tie everything together brilliantly. She effortlessly draws parallels between Hiroshima and 9/11, muses about what exactly going to war solves, and intersperses snippets from her interviews with conversations from her husband and children.
I’m feeling a bit tongue-tied here because honestly, I loved this book so much and I think it begs to be read. It is an absolute must-read in the memoir category, and because of the beautiful writing, it would be a great pick for someone newer to the idea of reading memoirs and other kinds of nonfiction. Rahna Reiko Rizzuto has an important story to tell and she tells it flawlessly. Highly recommended.