In eight months, Jonathan Krause will be dead. He has it all
figured out: he has a few items on his bucket list, the most
important a trip to Japan to see the cherry blossoms, a trip
he should have taken with his girlfriend, Sara. Jonathan has
learned everything he could about Japan, going as far as to
enroll in a language class. That is where Riko befriended
him. Rihoko -- Riko -- is a Japanese American who has a
quest of her own. When she suggests she travels along with
Jonathan to Japan, he barely hesitates, hoping he will not
have to modify his plans.
CHERRY BLOSSOMS is a surprising book, in many ways, not the
least to have a suicidal hero. At first, it seems a bit of a
whimsy on his part; his explorations of the ideal methods of
doing away with himself, and his cynical nature make this
sordid research rather amusing, even if it does make one
cringe to acknowledge it. However, we quickly realize how
deeply depressed Jonathan really is, and that CHERRY
BLOSSOMS is not going to be a macabre farce, but his voyage
into seeking permanent oblivion. The novel is told in first
person, from Jonathan's point of view, the reader inhabits
Jonathan's mind, and it is not a pretty place to share.
Jonathan is cynical, self- absorbed, and judgemental; it is
unusual for a hero in contemporary fiction to display such
political incorrectness about nearly everything. It is not
on account of his being depressed; it is the way he was and
is; I must say that it was a tad disconcerting. Although
Jonathan is thirty-four, I felt he often sounded a lot older
-- a decade or even two at times -- particularly regarding
some cultural references. He is a fascinating character,
even though I did not like him, I still fell compelled to
listen to his ramblings. This also showed how well Kim
Hooper understands the male psyche, especially in his
dealings with Sara.
CHERRY BLOSSOMS is cleverly structured, as Ms. Hooper drops
bits and pieces of information at the appropriate moments,
for instance concerning what had transpired with Sara. Those
passages were my favorites, and I detest the written
gymnastics required not to reveal plot twists, and some were
truly startling. I loved Riko -- a rather typical
twenty-three-year-old woman -- whose presence cuts through
the gloomy fog of Jonathan's musings. I enjoyed how well
Ms. Hooper described the Japanese language and classes; all
the trivia; I found it enlightening and it also relieved
from the heavy subject matter. The sightseeing in Japan is
an absolute marvel of eloquence, as I felt I was an
invisible guest. If travelogues in novels often merely serve
as page-fillers, it is not the case in CHERRY BLOSSOMS, as
the trip means everything to Jonathan and Riko. CHERRY
BLOSSOMS is about two people trying to make sense of their
existence while facing their past head-on; it is something
we all need to think about at some point in our lives.
From the author of the critically-acclaimed debut People
Who Knew Me comes the story of one manís determination
to abandon his will to live.
Jonathan Krause is a man with a plan. He is going to quit
his advertising job and, when his money runs out, he is
going to die. He just has one final mission: A trip to
Japan. Itís a trip he was supposed to take with his
girlfriend, Sara. Itís a trip inspired by his regrets. And
itís a trip to pay homage to the Japanese, the inventors of
his chosen suicide technique.
In preparation for his final voyage, Jonathan enrolls in a
Japanese language class where he meets Riko, who has her own
plans to visit her homeland, for very different reasons.
Their unexpected and unusual friendship takes them to Japan
together, where they each struggle to make peace with their
past and accept that happiness, loneliness, and grief come
and goójust like the cherry blossoms.
Haunted by lost love, Jonathan must decide if he can embrace
the transient nature of life, or if he must choose the
certainty of death.