Author: Jennifer Cody Epstein

*Blog Book Tour*: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein

Posted Monday, 13 January, 2014 by jorielov , , 6 Comments

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The Gods of Heavenly Punishment Tour via HFVBT

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein

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Published by:
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
, 11 March 2013 [hardback] | Page Count: 384
13th January 2014 [paperback]
| Page Count: 400

Available Format: Hardback | Paperback | E-book 


Acquired Book By:

I participated in the blog book tour for the hardback edition of “The Gods of Heavenly Punishment” by visiting the various stops on the original HFVBT route! Whilst making my rounds, I entered to win a copy of the novel! Whereupon I received such wonderfully brilliant news that I had indeed won a copy via Unabridged Chick’s blog in October of 2013! I received the book direct from the publisher without obligation to post a review.

Afterwards, whilst seeing there was a new tour for the paperback release of the same title, I requested to be placed on the tour! I decided that it was one book I hadn’t wanted to wait to read and being on a tour would be quite lovely! I was selected to be a stop on “The Gods of Heavenly Punishment” Virtual Book Tour, hosted by HFVBT, in which I am reading the hardback edition rather than the paperback. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

I originally came to know of this novel through reading one of my bi-weekly newsletters of “Shelf-Awareness for Readers”, whereupon I had entered to win a copy of this book in March of 2013 sending my entry directly to the author Ms. Epstein as requested. I did not receive a reply as the contest win went to someone else. However, I shared my thoughts, observations, and feelings about Japan inside my entry which went to the heart of why I was inspired to read the story contained within. These were those thoughts:

I have known about the effects of the World War on Hiroshima and Okinawa, exclusively through girls that I befriended who lived there, even if over the years, our friendships have all but faded. The girl in Hiroshima grew into a woman who had to marry, and I noticed that in marriage she wasn’t able to write as much, so we lost contact. I will never forget her kindness and her acceptance of what had happened, as she didn’t have conflict but rather a lot of peace! She was the one who originally told me about the Peace Crane project and of the statue. Through my friend in Okinawa I saw a different side of the war, one where the Japanese were welcoming to our soldiers and men, and how thankful they were for their presence.

I realise not everything that happened has a happy ending, as my friends are the same age as me, thus, we’re a few generations removed from the original events, and perhaps, as time is a healer of hearts and minds,… maybe its due to time that their memories are different than those who lived through everything first hand. I was reading my Friday edition of Shelf Awareness, and once more I felt a stirring inside me to know this particular story,… Japan has been on my mind + heart for years,… even in childhood as my grandparents loved Japanese art and culture, as much as I was drawn to everything else that encompasses the country. I have always found the Japanese to be hearty, fiercely strong, and devoted to faith, family, and survival. They have a genuine happy spirit about themselves, and they appreciate all of life, but most especially the joys and the unexpected bliss that unravel as we live.

Having said that, I never heard of the plight of Tokyo, in the war! I only know of what Tokyo is facing today, and how much it grieved me {and the rest of the world} that this nuclear meltdown was causing such added strife and sorrow…. I even feared for my friends’ I have long since lost, as I knew they were in and around the general prefects of Tokyo.

I would be honoured to read this story and open my eyes to more of the real picture of what residents of Tokyo and the rest of Japan have not only lived through but have had to overcome. There are always two sides to every story, and as time folds back on itself and shifts forward, I do find that not every element of historical truth is known until a writer has the courage to pen the story that needs to be heard. Thank you for being one of the brave ones and thank you for giving us a story to change our perspective and deepen our empathy.

{note} The contest ran in a Tuesday edition, but I waited until Friday’s edition to respond.

Whilst I was entering to win the book on Unabridged Chick’s blog I had this to say after having read Audra’s review:

I murmur your thoughts on this section of literature,… I am drawn into war stories myself, especially those stories that etch into the heart of the two couples struggling to keep their connection & make sense of everything that is happening around them. I don’t believe everyone who reads this part of literature is necessarily advocating for war, rather instead, they are appreciative of the stories that speak to the human heart and the bond that threads through us all!

I liked how you expressed the book unique style of settling the story into your mind and leaving it there a bit wantonly afterwards! You gave me the impression that the characters I’d find inside will stir my heart and leave me museful after I encounter them! Always an inclination I am in search of!


Synopsis of the Story:

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody EpsteinOne summer night in prewar Japan, eleven-year-old Billy Reynolds takes snapshots at his parent’s dinner party. That same evening his father Anton–a prominent American architect–begins a torrid affair with the wife of his master carpenter. A world away in New York, Cameron Richards rides a Ferris Wheel with his sweetheart and dreams about flying a plane. Though seemingly disparate moments, they will all draw together to shape the fate of a young girl caught in the midst of one of WWII’s most horrific events–the 1945 firebombing of Tokyo.

Exquisitely-rendered, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment tells the stories of families on both sides of the Pacific: their loves and infidelities, their dreams and losses–and their shared connection to one of the most devastating acts of war in human history.

Author’s Biography:

Jennifer EpsteinJennifer Cody Epstein is the author of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment and the international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, Self, Mademoiselle and NBC, and has worked in Hong Kong, Japan and Bangkok, Thailand. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, two daughters and especially needy Springer Spaniel.

For more information, please visit Jennifer Cody Epstein’s website and blog.  You can also find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.


A measure of innocence, ahead of stark cold reality:

Epstein opens her novel through the lens of projecting the innocence of youth, as evidenced by the opening sequences of introducing the reader to Cam and Lacy. Two university co-eds enjoying a date at a carnival in 1935, far ahead of the pending World War, of which I had suspected had a precursory quality about its delivery. To give a measure of innocence ahead of the stark cold reality which would settle in once the events of the attack on Tokyo were fully realised and turnt inward in the story. She juxtapositions straight into Japan, where we meet Billy the budding photographer whose confidence could use a nudging. Yoshi is the tender-hearted six-year-old whose Mum Hana is at a cross-roads of examining her life’s choices and the wayward path her life has taken her. Reflections on choices she erred in believing were true only to be turnt to falsehood by the man she laid her mistrust. Yoshi is a precocious child whose mastery of three languages rises her above her young years with a maturity she has not yet discovered inside her.

Hana is married to Kenji, a man she hadn’t quite chosen to wed and one who wasn’t quite her equal match. She questions the merit of their marriage as much as the depth of his understanding of her. She was carted off to different countries so frequently in her growing years, she is a woman of the world rather than the traditional Japanese wife he was expecting her to become. She held herself with a different countenance than others in her generation, and strove to keep her individual identity intact. Her state of premonitions in regards to overwhelming grief and tragedy keep an edge inside her which hasn’t a release of calm to give.

My Review of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment:

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment begins slowly as though your about to enter a dance where the music is set low in order to intone and inflect the seriousness of the movements thus forthcoming. Epstein has mastered the gift of easing her audience into the heart of her tale by misleading their confidence in seeing how each of the lives in the story are surrounded in their own waves of normalcy ahead of the terror. You gently enter their lives as though you were the unspoken observer, cleverly intuitive and receptive to their most intimate of affairs. You glide alongside their shadows, taking in the truths they would rather etch away and instill in your own mind what their realities are preparing for them to yield. She is presenting a study of soliloquy of cultural traditions against the backdrop of sociological warfare.

By 1942, Cam is fully grown and awaiting orders for a mission he would take whilst hinted at those years ago at the carnival whilst his eyes were skyward watching the planes in the sky. His letter to Lacy diverge the ominous events still yet to come. The mingling joy of their days prior to his dispatchment were long since dissolved, whilst his fear of the unknown worked to overtake his last nerve. Epstein doesn’t shy or yield away from what Cam would be hearing and seeing as he was starting to live through the horror of what was on the edges of his sight. A fighter pilot would always be pitted against the odds which would extinguish a life without a passing thought as dogfights rendered logic elsewhere.

I am not sure how I came to feel the story inside would be a far different one than the one I encountered, but suffice it to say, my forethought of reason to read the novel was intermixed with the pages giving my eyes and mind far more to ponder than I could have felt possible. The raw realities of this slice of the World War was a bit more than I was willing or able to handle, which is why I had to force myself to read ahead. This is one instance where I honestly couldn’t carry forward with the story, as it was wrenching me on the insides to the brink that I was not able to feel anything but discomfort and misery. I always approach each novel I open with an open-mind and heart, but this one touched on more than I could overcome.  I honestly could not finish this one nor can I give it a full review of what the author intended to leave behind for readers to experience.

Fly in the Ointment:

Switching point of views was a bit awkward, as your feeling as though your re-reading the same passage without the foreshadow of why it would be repeated at all. The limited windows of revelation of how the other characters were taking in the scene on the porch when Yoshi came running the hill were off-set against the inability to sort through why full dialogue and action were truth and bone intact. The initial start of the novel gave the impression of the novel heading in one particular direction with a tone altogether different than the one that veers off around page 45. I had a strugglement in following the author’s guiding hand as pieces of the narrative felt a bit choppy to me rather than maintaining their flucidity.


Virtual Road Map for
“The Gods of Heavenly Punishment” Blog Tour:

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment Tour via HFVBT

Be sure to scope out my
Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva
to mark your calendars!!
As well as to see which events I will be hosting with:

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours - HFVBT{SOURCES: Author photograph, Book Synopsis, Author Biography, Book Cover “The Gods of Heavenly Punishment”,  tour badge & HFVBT badge were provided by HFVBT and were used by permission. Book Review badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

Related Articles:

Absorbing and Thoughtful Interview with Author Jennifer Cody Epstein: Asian Culture, Women’s Rights, and Sea Urchin – (hookofabook.wordpress.com)

Interview with Jennifer Cody Epstein – (unabridged-expression.blogspot.com)

Celebrating the Paperback Release of Jennifer Cody Epstein’s The Gods of Heavenly Punishment – (womensfictionwriters.wordpress.com)

Jennifer Cody Epstein Shows Literary Excellence in Historical Fiction Novel Centered in WWII called The Gods of Heavenly Punishment – (hookofabook.wordpress.com)

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Go Indie
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Posted Monday, 13 January, 2014 by jorielov in 20th Century, Aftermath of World War II, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Cultural Heritage, Fly in the Ointment, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Japan, Japanese History, Premonition-Precognitive Visions, Shelf Awareness, the Forties, The World Wars