I'm in no way an objective reviewer of this book since I contributed a piece to it and I know many of the people who brought it together. On March 11th at 2:46 pm, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, followed by massive tsunami devastated Japan and nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture. The estimated death toll is expected to reach 40,000. It is a tragedy of such magnitude that it's hard to wrap your head around it. Numbers are numbers. They have no face; it is hard to feel for figures. Quakebook tells the story of this earthquake and the aftermath in art, essays, short memoirs, and photographs. Each story is moving its own way. There are accounts from those who directly suffered, those who were left in limbo waiting to find out if their loved ones were missing or dead. There are stories of those who could not but help leave Japan after the earthquake as well. Some of the essays are painful to read. The piece "Positive" is simply about one man watching a news broadcast of a rescue attempt going badly and how he could not watch the rest. If you read it, you'll understand why. There are some thing we do not want to know but perhaps should know. That's for each person to decide. It is not only a book of mourning; it is a book of hope. The book came into existence because one man felt like he could not stand by and do nothing. This book began with his idea and took shape through the hard work of many others. People made enormous sacrifices to make this book into a reality.
Amazon went to great lengths to ensure that all proceeds from this book go directly to the Japan Red Cross, which aids the victims in Japan in many ways. They are not taking a single cent. It is a tremendous act of corporate altruism.
The writing quality in the book is uneven. There are typos as well--the book was rushed together while the memory of the disaster was fresh in the minds of people and also because there are many who still need medical aid, food, blankets, support right now, not months later. Some entries are poorly worded but the sentiments are heart-felt. Yes, there is disparity in the quality of the writing. This is to be expected; this is not a book written by professional journalists or novelists.
These are pieces from Japanese citizens, foreign residents, bystanders, witnesses, journalists,artists, and people who are tied to Japan in often nebulous ways. What they have in common is a love for this country, Japan, and for humanity. All proceeds go to charity.
I'm very fond of Japanese proverbs and there's one that sums up this book quite beautifully. "Nasake wa hito no tame narazu". It's difficult to translate but what it means is this: the kindness we bestow on others benefits not only them but in some ways ourselves as well. I've often felt the best way to mourn the dead is to help those who remain. Reading this book is one way to do it.