Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Book Review - - Forgiveness: A Gift from My Grandparents by Mark Sakamoto


Mark Sakamoto is a Canadian of Japanese and Scottish descent and that means everything in the true story he tells. Sakamoto’s maternal grandfather was captured and imprisoned for five years by the Japanese in World War II. His paternal grandparents, including his Canadian citizen grandmother, were detained by the Canadian government after the attack on Pearl Harbour and placed into an “internment program” until four years after the end of the same war. All of their belongings and property were sold in order to fund the program.
In other words, both sets of parents experienced unjustifiable hardship.
And then their children fell in love.
You must imagine what it would be like to have your daughter bring home someone of the same race that tortured you not twenty years earlier. You must imagine what it would take to allow a white Canadian girl into your family when it was her race that had abused, stolen from and strongly urged you to leave your country of birth.
There is really only one option to finagle your way out of this situation: forgiveness. And according to Sakamoto, that is exactly what his grandparents decided to do. They forgave. 
Although it is not explicit on the Sakamoto side, it was the Bible that prompted Ralph MacLean to forgive. After getting a Bible sent to him in a Red Cross care package, he took to heart the words of Mark 11:25 “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Now as a Christian reader of this book, it was at this point I felt the story needed much more development. In fact, the remarkable meeting of the MacLean and the Sakamoto parents gets barely a few pages of description. The author alludes that very little was ever spoken between them about the past, but there remains so much more to be told. How exactly did the relationship flourish? Were there ever any faltering’s? Did MacLean’s spiritual motivation stem from an authentic religious experience? Was he a faithful churchman? So many questions.
Sakamoto (the author) chooses to conclude the book with a description of his own life, which centered very much on the downward spiral of his alcoholic mother. In the end, we presume, it was the model of forgiveness seen in his grandparents that helped him to forgive her.

This is a wonderfully written book and captures much of what it means to be a Canadian. It opened my eyes more to the suffering of the Japanese in Canada during the war and increased my fondness for those who served my country in the past. My only hope is that Sakamoto will consider writing more about the unique relationship of his two sets of grandparents.

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