Blog Book Tour | “Repentance” by Andrew Lam One part medical drama, one part war drama – this is a uniquely told realistic look into how a father and son come to terms of their disconnection.

Posted Wednesday, 15 May, 2019 by jorielov , , 4 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! HFVBTs is one of the very first touring companies I started working with as a 1st Year Book Blogger – uniting my love and passion with Historical Fiction and the lovely sub-genres inside which I love devouring. It has been a wicked fantastical journey into the heart of the historic past, wherein I’ve been blessed truly by discovering new timescapes, new living realities of the persons who once lived (ie. Biographical Historical Fiction) inasmuch as itched my healthy appetite for Cosy Historical Mysteries! If there is a #HistRom out there it is generally a beloved favourite and I love soaking into a wicked wonderful work of Historical Fiction where you feel the beauty of the historic world, the depth of the characters and the joyfulness in which the historical novelists brought everything to light in such a lovingly diverse palette of portraiture of the eras we become time travellers through their stories.

I received a complimentary ARC copy of “Repentance” direct from the publisher Tiny Fox Press in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I was drawn towards “Repentance”:

As you know, I love reading a heap of Historical Fiction throughout the year – I’ve had to pull back from reading certain kinds of war dramas these past several years, ever since I read Citadel and found myself unable to ‘let go’ of the haunting story of what happened during that period of the war after I concluded my readings of it. It was a firm reminder that we all have limitations in our readerly lives and it also, encouraged me to seek out the writers who are writing human interest stories set during the war generation as much as the stories on the homefront or the after effects of war in the ensuing years following the end of WWII.

I have previously read a Historical drama set round the internment of the Japanese in America during WWII – it opened my eyes to what they went through but also, how I hadn’t learnt nearly enough in school to see a fuller picture of what was going on during the forties and how there are hidden pockets of information kept just out of reach until we find a writer who can bridge the past to the present – re-affirming a lost generation’s truth and instilling us with a memory of the past which bears reckoning to acknowledge in the present. This first story I read was called “How Much Do You Love Me?” by Paul Mark Tag – it is keenly insightful and I loved how he paced the revelations of what is disclosed. You truly feel jettisoned back to a time where Japanese were dealing with the impossible and where the mindset in America was not as it is today..

This is the second novel I’ve found highlighting this hidden history and I was thankful it also lead me to discovering a new #IndiePub at the same time! I am always overjoyed whenever I find a new publisher in the Indie side of publishing as I love championing Independent Press & Publishers who are publishing the stories which might have become overlooked by larger publishers of the same genre(s) of interest.

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Blog Book Tour | “Repentance” by Andrew Lam One part medical drama, one part war drama – this is a uniquely told realistic look into how a father and son come to terms of their disconnection.Repentance
by Andrew Lam
Source: Publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

France, October 1944. A Japanese American war hero has a secret.

A secret so awful he’d rather die than tell anyone–one so entwined with the brave act that made him a hero that he’s determined never to speak of the war. Ever.

Decades later his son, Daniel Tokunaga, a world-famous cardiac surgeon, is perplexed when the U.S. government comes calling, wanting to know about his father’s service with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during WWII. Something terrible happened while his father was fighting the Germans in France, and the Department of Defense won’t stop its investigation until it’s determined exactly who did what.

Wanting answers of his own, Daniel upends his life to find out what his father did on a small, obscure hilltop half a world away. As his quest for the truth unravels his family’s catastrophic past, the only thing for certain is that nothing–his life, career, and family–can ever be the same again.

Genres: Historical Fiction, War Drama

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781946501127

Also by this author: Repentance Interview (Andrew Lam)

Published by Tiny Fox Press

on 1st May, 2019

Format: Paperback ARC

Pages: 297

Published By: Tiny Fox Press (@TinyFoxPress)

Formats Available: Trade Paperback and Ebook

About Andrew Lam

Andrew Lam

Andrew Lam, M.D., is the award-winning author of Repentance, Two Sons of China, and Saving Sight. His writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Born in Philadelphia and raised in central Illinois, he graduated summa cum laude in history from Yale University, where he studied military history and U.S.-East Asian relations. He then attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by specialty training to become a retinal surgeon. He is an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and resides in western Massachusetts with his wife and four children.

His newest book is Repentance, a historical novel and riveting family drama entwined with the history of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a group of Japanese American soldiers who fought valiantly in Europe during WWII while many of their families were incarcerated in camps like Manzanar at home. The 442nd became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history.

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my review of repentance:

A considerable time has passed since I regularly have watched emergency room dramas (including the most infamous of them all except for me the joy deflated once Hathaway & Ross relocated to Washington State) – thus, it has been a bit since I’ve had the jolt of intensity only medical dramas can provide. Lam does an excellent job of inserting us back into that high octane world – directly from the first sentence of the first chapter, as you immediately recognise the scene, can feel the fever of adrenaline in the room and without flinching know what is going to be happening next; almost to the brink of being back inside ER.

Shortly after we mirror Dr Tokunaga’s impressively calm and swift thinking in the emergency room whilst a gunshot victim arrives when he’s meant to be home celebrating his son’s journey to college – you find out a lot about the doctor himself, including his dedication to to the profession whilst in a shorter context can view how his professional life is affecting his personal life at home. There is a short conversation exchanged with his wife – the kind of conversation you’d have thought a wife would understand, how quickly plans can chance in the height of an emergency case and how there are times where a doctor simply can’t pull away – however, apparently not all marriages are agreeable to these kinds of situations. I can speak from personal experience as my father was in an intensive career which was adjacent to the morgue – on any given day, his hours either lengthened or reversed on plans at the drop of a hat. My Mum never made a big issue out of it and always found a way to work round it. In fact, we had a lot of creatively spontaneous dinners out and Dad enjoyed being active in our lives – albeit a bit unconventionally yet his priority was on his family and thus, we all made it work. It is sombering really to think others do not have this advantage from their wives and children; as honestly, any career like this has its share of give/take and it is something to be advised of knowing before you tackle it. (*see note)

Quite quickly, as life can happen in a blink – we shift away from Dr Tokunaga’s personal life at home to his parents life in California. This causes a change in setting for the story – from Pennsylvania to California but also, a focus of disclosing a bit of the fracture between father and son. Lam paints the emotional anguish well – as though Tokunaga is as closed lipped as his father, his emotions fly off him in waves, something even his mother from her hospital bed can attest to noticing. He flew out due to her medical crisis but what he finds whilst he’s there is a bit of hidden history about his father’s war service courtesy of one his father’s old Army friends. It is there at the point of disclosure where we see Tokunaga shift his mind to thinking about his father and the war history he previously knew of being exchanged for a different perspective of the truth.

Afterwards we time shift again in different circumstances – both to war and to Tokunaga’s childhood where the brutal realism of his upbringing comes fully into light. From the emotional and physical abuse of a father who never dealt with his anger management issues nor his PTSD from the war itself – not that that is being mentioned directly but you can indirectly intuit it out of how Lam is offering the back-history of father and son. It is difficult to take your eyes out of the context of the story at this point because of how much Tokunaga suffered under his father’s iron rule and how that oppressive childhood affected him as an adult. He had a younger brother as well – both boys knew never to cross their father and despite having regular childhood hurdles with bullies at school or in the neighbourhood, their father had a rather repulsively brutal reaction to all of it. Their mother unfortunately did not have much of a voice to offset their father’s and as such, it left an impressionable mark on them both.

Counter-current to exploring what had fractured Daniel from his father, Lam also seeks to look at Daniel’s marriage to Beth. Beth has her own voice in this story – to explore her marriage and the disconnection she feels from her husband. It is hard to explain what happened between them as the years shifted forward she lost sight of when the disconnection had originally occurred – which is quite believable in all long-term marriages. She was full of the emotional tidalwaves of re-looking over your life’s choices and seeing where your path dissolved on one part of your future goals and re-aligned with new dreams, new hopes and new aspirations. She was a woman who had a lot of regret but was not fully willing to claim them – you could tell she felt conflicted, from how she let her husband’s career be the focal point of their lives and how she took the secondary path, to be a housewife and keep their home on even keel. The difficulty there is how after all these years, she was questioning the worth she had as a person and if she understood who she was at all – there is a receptive awareness in her thinking but also a hardened line of being burdened by the past and the regrets which naturally start to boil to the surface after a lifetime of putting your own emotions aside to focus on your family. I truly felt her pain and her indecision about how to proceed.

One very important part of Repentance is about communication – not just between fathers and their sons but between wives and their husbands. Some men struggle with communication – they can’t talk about their emotions or their past; they bottle everything and hide it away from their families. Whether that stems from their childhood and their resilient approach to adulthood to offset what happened in their younger years or a part of their own nature is hard to pin down. One thing is for certain, Dr Tokunaga can ace his role as a surgeon but when it comes to the tangible and more crucial relationships in his life, he falters. He has trouble understanding why his silence and his inability to describe his internal thoughts is problematic (especially to his wife Beth) whilst he avoids letting himself feel to much of anything. He’d rather bury it or table it; never discuss it and never make anything out of well, anything. Almost like it was either a point of pride or a reactive way of just surviving through what he could not discuss but needed to live past. This course is also parallel of interest to Tokunga’s mother, Keiko who held a deeply guarded secret of her own.

The interesting takeaway I had whilst reading this novel is that I think I would have enjoyed it even more had the time shifts been a bit more limited from the war perspectives and leant more on the present – wherein you could have spent more time with Daniel and Ray in the present or even, had limited the war sequences to opt instead for flashing back to different moments of their life as father and son. There were a few of those of course, but the war took over most of the narrative – which I understood as this is partially a war drama but at the core of it really is a heart-wrecking story about a father and his son. I felt those passages were incredibly written and the war pieces were a bit more disconcerting as they sometimes took away from the main thread of the story-line at least for me as they were just these brief snapshots without the context of how those snapshots were leading ‘towards’ the hidden truth Daniel’s father Ray was shielding from his son and everyone else he had known.

Sadly, like in most families where fathers and sons are suffering from a internal war with themselves, the best solution would have been for them to enter into therapy. If they could have found a listening ear with someone who could listen to their stories – to unlock what was causing the internal fluctuations of their emotional lives and also to back-listen to the moments where they were either unable to compensate for a circumstance they couldn’t control or to sort out what disrupted their lives at different junctions of focus – they might have been able to lead a healthier life without the repressive burdens of the past weighing them down. The hardest part about reading Repentance is seeing how both Daniel and his father Ray would have benefited from therapy – both individually and then, together. To not just work out their own issues but to repair the damage they had garnished between them – as all of it worked to shape who they were to become in the future.

The secrets people try to hide from themselves and from each other are the kinds of secrets which resurface at a point in their lives where they are nearly unable to handle them. If they weren’t secreted in the first place, life might have gone differently or ripples of disconnection could have happened sooner than later. The hardest part about the story of courses, is seeing how the different secrets being kept were inflicting more harm than good – how each secret that is overturned and examined in the present is in conflict with the past. Perception is everything in life and if your perception becomes altered, everything is automatically changed about how you view the life you’ve lived.

(*) What surprised me about how the party was upturnt by the emergency case is how come the cake, the twins and the wife couldn’t meet their husband/father at one of those 24 hour diners and celebrate after the surgery? I mean, what was the big deal about the hour of the celebration? Its not like the twins couldn’t cat nap on the plane/train? I suppose when you come from a family whose creative solutions to a 24/7 industry is the norm, it is more shocking learning how unyielding or bendable other families actually are – it just felt so simple to find a workaround.

Notations from the ARC:

Chapter Headings:

A bit of an unusual twist here – we start off in September 1998 but in some of the successive chapters only the year is declared and not the month. Then, the headings revert back to month and the year – it is small switch-up but what seemed odd to me – if the year never changed, why not just change the location and leave the year off? OR similarly, if you begin the month and year sequence why not continue it? I was a bit baffled by that as it was leaving me thinking about the choices in chapter headings more than it ought too. Being I had an ARC copy, I am also unsure if this was fixed, amended or edited in the final version.

Daniel’s father:

I wish the story had disclosed Daniel’s father’s name a bit sooner – although he is focused on in the flashbacks and time shifts to the war itself, I had to flip forward to the back chapters to sort out which man in those instances was his actual father. There were more than one Army bloke being mentioned and the last names were withheld, so you only had first names to go by – thus, it was a bit muddling to know who was whom.

on the historical narrative style of andrew lam:

Lam has a critical eye for medical drama and emergency medical depictions – it brought me back to why I loved watching ER and M*A*S*H even though I’ve seen more medical dramas than most and each of them in turn brought something new for me to enjoy about how close we were knitted inside the medical staff’s personal and professional lives. The accuracy of his pacing and the delivery of the necessary visuals was bang-on brilliant and what I liked most is the realism he gave it as some authors try but cannot always grab a hold of what Lam can give – a benefit of course due to his own professional background in the medical field. He has a true gift for medical narrative and I was thankful I had a chance to experience it.

What I loved most about reading Repentance is how it was fully fleshed out – from the narrative to the dialogue to the back-stories – Lam has a particular eye for evoking emotional depth out of his Historical Fiction giving you as a reader a keen understanding of the subject he’s chosen to explore. He makes you feel rooted inside the setting, the texture of his characters lives but more to the point, he has ample space to let his characters breathe – letting their journey overtake your imagination and to become fused with their path as you read his novel. It is a special treat to find this kind of writer as it makes reading their stories wicked wonderful.

Although, I felt the story muddled a bit in the portions related to the war as I appreciated the present day sequences more – I would say, Lam could shift directly into writing familial relationship dramas or even lighter Historicals where the empathsis is not just locked on the war era itself but rather is slightly anchoured there but is more critically looking at the after effects of that era through the lens of his modern characters. He has a tap on the relationship drama between couples and how they try to make the transitions in their marriage not deconstruct the love they once had when they first married. His connection to those moments in his characters’ lives is quite brilliant and his emotional centering and the breadth he gives to his characters in that section of the novel is as riveting as any Women’s Fiction novel I’ve read.

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This blog tour is courtesy of: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Repentance blog tour via HFVBTs

Be sure to not only follow the rest of the tour for keen insight into the novel but for special guest features – be sure to visit the conversation I had on behalf of “Repentance” earlier in the blog tour with the author Andrew Lam!

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Reading this novel counted towards some of my 2019 reading challenges:

2019 HistFic Reading Challenge banner created by Jorie in Canva.

2019 New Release Challenge created by for and is used with permission.

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “Repentance”, book synopsis, author biography for Andrew Lam, the tour host badge and HFVBTs badge were all provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and used with permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. 2019 New Release Challenge created by for and is used with permission. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna, Historical Fiction Reading Challenge banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2019.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Wednesday, 15 May, 2019 by jorielov in 20th Century, Author Interview, Blog Tour Host, Content Note, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, The World Wars, Vulgarity in Literature

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4 responses to “Blog Book Tour | “Repentance” by Andrew Lam One part medical drama, one part war drama – this is a uniquely told realistic look into how a father and son come to terms of their disconnection.

  1. This sounds really interesting! I love books that deal with communication issues since it’s such a big problem within the real world; it’s interesting to have the context of the story to think about how you handle things in real life. Excellent review!

    • Hallo, Hallo Alyssa,

      Thank you for leaving me a comment, today! It is lovely to interact with my readers and agree with you – it is refreshing when a story can highlight such a realistic issue in our lives such as the disconnections and the miscommunication issues that can plague relationships. I truly felt Mr Lam not only honed in on this with finesse but he really examines what breaks down the channels of communication and how if you truly want to seek resolution, you have to be willing to become vulnerable to what that truly means as anytime communication is the root cause of the disconnect, you have to be willing to take that journey back towards a state of redemption and/or repentance.

      Thank you for your beautifully lovely compliments!

    • *waves!*

      Ms Bruno,

      Late last night I was noticing a lot of people were finding this particular review via Facebook – I decided to see if Mr Lam had shared it on his Facebook page and that is when I happily discovered how much he appreciated my thoughts on behalf of his novel! He truly surprised me by his note of gratitude as it became a wonderful capstone to this experience of reading Repentance! So very thankful to have been included on this blog tour!

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