Utterly absorbing. The somewhat annoying voice of Nao Yasutani--an ethnic Japanese teenager raised in California and returned to Japan after her father lost his job in the dot.com crash--took a little time to get used to but her horrific experience of bullying at school and her pure love for her great-grandmother Jiko, an anarchist-feminist writer turned Zen nun, soon render her more sympathetic. In contrast, the other narrative about Ruth, closely based on the author, is probing, stubborn, and tender in depicting her dislocation from New York City to a tiny island (Land of the Dead) off the coast of British Columbia and her loss of her mother first to Alzheimer's and then to death. The myriad ways in which the two stories interact to become one tale cast a brilliant light and a wonderful play of shadows on the gift of storytelling. The invention of Haruki #1, the reluctant kamikaze pilot, shows the noble ideals that the author holds dear.