Mark Sakamoto's grandparents were born and raised on opposite sides of the country of Canada. They also found themselves on opposite sides in World War II. Despite these differences, however, they shared remarkable resiliency and their amazing ability to embrace forgiveness provides a worthy example for each of us to follow.
Mark's Scottish-Canadian maternal grandfather, Ralph McLean, joined the war effort as a way of escaping problems experienced in his family of origin. He was sent to Hong Kong to fight and saw many of his fellow soldiers killed, tortured or abused infront of him. Mr. McLean was captured and put into a prisoner of war camp where he was starved and forced to suffer inhumanities for years.
Mark's Japanese-Canadian paternal grandmother, Mitsue Sakamoto, and her family were happily living and working in Vancouver. Then the war broke out and everything changed for them. The government forced them to move to southern Alberta where they did back-breaking work and lived in squalor just because of their ethic background.
No one could have predicted that the children of these brave individuals would meet and fall in love - but they did. The merging of their two families might not have seemed possible but Ralph and Mitsue were able to overcome the atrocities that they had suffered and replaced them with forgiveness.
But the pain and suffering didn't end with Ralph and Mitsue. After their children married and became parents of two sons - one of whom is the book's author - their relationship began to unravel. Demands associated with trying to earn a living and personal disappointments led to separation and divorce. The boys' mother became trapped in a partying lifestyle that eventually led to alcoholism and further problems for herself and her sons.
Even though the storyline for "Forgiveness" is based on the lives of the authors' grandparents, it actually encompasses five generations of his family tree. It begins with Mark Sakamoto's great-grandparents and moves down the branches to include his own young children.
The geographical and historical settings in "Forgiveness" come to life because of well-researched details. All the characters are described so clearly that it feels as though they are people who we personally know and care about.
Although it might at first seem that Ralph and Mitsue are the book's heroes I believe that Mark himself is also a true hero in this tale. He not only honours his grandparents by telling their stories but also uses transparency and boldness to describe his own emotional pain and how he negotiated the resolution of it through forgiveness. His grandparents may have been his role-models but it was when he applied the lessons that their lives exemplified in his own life that they became the most powerful.
"Forgiveness" is written in a very honest style that captures the reader's attention and stirs the emotions. At one point you will probably feel horrified, at another you may be crying and at another you will probably find yourself laughing out loud.
I would highly recommend this very unique book that tells the true story of a family who learned to live with grace and courage despite horrific circumstances. It is truly inspiring!