I’ve heard the following comments in my house earlier this weekend (and a hundred other times).
“You can’t change your mind.”
My children obviously have been taught to stand by their word. But what to do when one’s conscience says that a decision should be undone?
Four years ago, I finished writing the tenth Rei Shimura novel, Shimura Trouble, and wrote on this website that Rei was going on hiatus. A Hawaii sunset was the best thing for her to enjoy while I undertook a complicated project that I’d been longing to try: a standalone historical novel. Once I started working on The Sleeping Dictionary, my brain traveled to such a faraway place (1920s India) that I worried I might not be able to write about Rei again. I would never want to deliver books that didn’t have my heart in it; it’s not fair to readers.
Recently I checked the Wikipedia listing for my name and read that Shimura Trouble was the final book in the Rei Shimura series. Talk about sad news for me! There it was on the Internet, for millions to believe.
Almost a year ago, I was done with the standalone and trying to figure out my next book. Then came the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku, Japan. I have no words for how terrible I felt, far away from the country that became my second home. The catastrophic event that had been foretold—and I’d tried to convince myself would never come—arrived, killing more than 23,000 people on a horrific Friday afternoon.
As the disturbing reports rolled in, I felt that Rei Shimura’s Japan was dead. How could I ever write again about salty-sweet Pocky Sticks and whimsical clothing when the country had fallen onto its hardest time since World War II? But I realized that the Rei I knew wouldn’t waste a minute mourning that kind of thing. She’d leave the Hawaiian sunset for a red-eye flight to Japan and do something positive with her grief. The story of Rei’s adventure to Tohoku began naturally unfolding in my mind. And I realized that if I wrote accurately about Tohoku and its people, it might encourage people to visit the stricken areas where the local population is working hard to rebuild. And in the process of promoting my book, I could also raise money for survivors.
So, as I’m telling my kids: sometimes we eat our words. I’m about halfway through writing the first draft of Rei Shimura #11: The Kizuna Coast. Kizuna sounds beautiful, and so is its meaning: the caring bonds between people. The loving outreach of people internationally has given Tohoku a second chance. And the kizuna between you and me is why Rei Shimura’s coming back.
This is a video made about the Peaceboat NGO who brought some of the first volunteers to Tohoku. It’s 24 minutes long but shows great examples of kizuna.