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It is 1841. Japanese fisherman Shima and his younger brother, out on a routine fishing expedition, are wrecked on an uninhabited island by a freak typhoon. Their rescue by a passing American whaling ship proves a short-lived miracle when, barred from reentering Japan, the ship heads for the whaling grounds of the South Pacific.
Shima becomes an unwilling passenger in a strange floating world filled with foreign faces, a new language, and a hostile chief mate. But when the reclusive captain suddenly falls ill, Shima and third mate Daniel Ellis stumble upon a secret from his past that brings together their previously isolated worlds.
Inspired by the true story of John Manjiro, one of the first Japanese in America and later interpreter to the shogun, "The Sea-God at Sunrise" is a tale of friendship and forgiveness across two cultures at the height of America's Golden Age of Whaling.
The Sea-God at Sunrise by G.L. Tysk is another favorite book that I find myself returning to over and over again like a beloved best friend. I first read this book on my Kindle but immediately ordered the print version and I keep it proudly displayed on the bookshelf in my family room. Tysk wrote this book after listening to Moby Dick on audiobook and finding herself intrigued by the world of whaling. She took this new interest and combined it with her passion for Japanese history and nautical fiction to create The Sea-God at Sunrise.
In this book, Shima and his little brother, Takao, find themselves isolated on an island off the coast of Japan after being shipwrecked during a typhoon. A few days have passed and the boys are suffering from dehydration and starvation when they are discovered and rescued by crew members of the American whaling ship, The Archer.
This novel is unique in that it is told from the perspective of two protagonist characters. There is Shima who is the eldest Japanese fisherman boy and Ellis who is a ship mate aboard the American whaling ship. In a book that is built around the conflict between two cultures and the adjustment of two boys into a new world it is fascinating to be able to read the story from two perspectives. In one chapter we can feel Shima’s distrust of the foreigners and his fear over being surrounded by men who look, act and speak differently than him and his brother. In the next chapter we will read the continuation of the story from the perspective of Ellis who is trying to make sense of these two Japanese boys, understand why their country won’t allow their return, and break through the cultural barriers to help them adjust. It’s an intriguing contrast of cultures and a very enjoyable read. Takao, the younger brother, isn’t identified as a protagonist that writes his own chapters of the story but he does remain a central figure. I’m supposing that because of his youth he has an easier time learning the English language and adapting to life aboard The Archer.
All of the characters in The Sea-God at Sunrise are so likable but, there is little detail into the history of the characters prior to their whaling life aboard The Archer, Tysk provides just enough information to provide a general history. Reading through this story it’s easy to understand that Cuffee enjoys life at sea, Captain and Cassock have a deeply rooted personal history in which a past tragedy has torn a major rift inside the friendship, Hutch is a compassionate spiritual man who provides moral guidance to the ship and Ellis is a young man trying to find his way on a ship sailing the wild and unpredictable seas.
Y’all, I love this book. It’s one of my all-time favorites and it’s a wonderful journey on a whaling ship through an incredibly curious time in history. I highly recommend it and you can get it now right here.
What do you think? Are you ready to give it a read?