Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf: Forgiveness

By Lynn Willoughby

Forgiveness ~ Mark Sakamoto

This Canadian author has hit all the right notes in this autobiographical memoir of three generations of his family. There truly are lessons in forgiveness for all of us.

Ralph MacLean is from the Magdalene Islands. He is eighteen when he and his best friend, Deighton, enlist in the army to fight in World War II.  His one, and only, mission – to protect Hong Kong from the invading Japanese army, was always doomed to fail. 

Churchill himself said Hong Kong was impossible to defend. It was:  MacLean spent five and a half years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. The disease, starvation, inadequate housing, horrendous working conditions make one side of this family story.

Mitsue and Hideo Sakamoto live in Vancouver. In the spring of 1941 the government ordered all Canadians of Japanese descent to obtain registration cards. Mitsue’s card was white, as she had been born in Canada.  Her parents’s cards were pink, as they had been issued Canadian citizenship. Those who were not Canadian citizens got yellow cards.

On January 14, 1942 Prime Minister MacKenzie King announced that ALL Japanese aliens would be evacuated to protect areas outside of a one hundred mile radius of the coast. Mitsue, her new husband, her new mother- and father-in-law, and a sister-in-law all ended up on a sugar beet farm near Taber. They arrived in their pearls and high heels. Their new home was a chicken coop made of slats with the constant wind blowing through, bringing in dust and mosquitoes. 

The war years end and Stanley Sakamoto marries Diane MacLean.  Mark and his brother, Daniel, are born. They live in Medicine Hat. We get some of the history of the city, the life and times of Mark as a young man.

I loved Sakamoto’s writing and felt I was right beside him on this journey.  “… I snuck over to the small beer fridge in the kitchen. There was a bottle of black bean sauce, a box of cheap white wine, a bottle of mustard, and two end pieces from a loaf of bread.  I lost myself in the bleakness of that fridge.”

This is a must read if you like reading about Canadian history written by Canadian authors. It would generate lots of discussion for a book club.

Who Knew?

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection which causes a thick covering in the back of the throat. It can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis and even death.  It can also cause paralysis in the eyes, leading to blindness.

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