As a story that involved different time periods it was interesting how these stories intertwined. Seeing a man coming home from the Second World War to find his family and everything he loved gone, then to find out later what happened and how much life had screwed him over, was upsetting and fascinating. Most won't think of the repercussions of the life some leaves behind and the life they return to, especially given the time some soldiers spent away, and still spend on deployment. After most wars, the man or boy sent away is not the man or boy who comes back, and often the lives they are coming back to is not the same either.
Ray finds this to be the truth when he returns to what he thought of as home, only to find that everything has changed and he is no longer welcome. As the story moves on the reader gets to see how unwelcome Ray is when the woman he loves and the people of the town react to him in an unexpected way. Decades later, when John returns from Vietnam with the same kind of feeling about where home is, he find himself embroiled in discussions between his distant Aunt, Evelyn Wilson, and Ray's mother Kimiko Takahashi, who only want to know where her son is. Evelyn Wilson however is full of secrets that she is unwilling to share, keeping a family in the dark, and creating more and more unnecessary heartache.
John, is dealing with his own issues, memories and ghosts from his time in Vietnam. He spends some time with another soldier who was with him, Chigger, but in the end, no really gets their happy ending.
This novel not only shows a portrayal of what it looks like for a soldier to come home, but also what secrets can do when left unspoken. One family doesn't find out the entire truth, and another searches for something they let go of. In the end, there isn't justice for anyone, even John loses by not reaching out to someone he should have reached out to.
There are parts of this novel that were hard to read, especially as someone who has been military for most of their life and who has sent men off to war. Parts of this novel were hard to read because of the blatant racism and disgust that some of the character portrayed, Evelyn Wilson was not a pleasant person, and neither was her daughter, Helen.
In the end, the only issue I had with this book was the slipping of time forward and backward. There were moments that were confusing, and there were moments that were overdone, but overall, the book was pretty good.