“When the Cherry Blossoms Fell” by Jennifer Maruna is about nine-year-old Michiko Minagawa living in Canada bidding her father goodbye before her birthday celebration. She does not know the government had ordered all Japanese-born men out of the province. Later on, her family joins hundreds of Japanese-Canadians on a train to the interior of British Columbia. In this “Land of No,” there are no paved roads, no streetlights and no streetcars.
Edna Morrison, a good-hearted town person, enrolls Michiko in the local school. It is here that she learns the truth of her situation. At the end, Michiko must face the worse winter in forty years and her first Christmas without her father.
Maruno’s style is unique because instead of giving information blatantly, she covers the story with a thin layer of undiscovered truth and mystery. In its structure, the story can be separated into two parts. The first part is when Michiko does not know what really happened and the second part is when the truth is revealed. By doing this, the author captures the reader’s mind in her desire to know what will happen next. Also, instead of ending the story with the disclosure of the truth, Maruno writes more of what happens after this disclosure in order to provide a more complete ending. As a result, she builds a smooth transition from one stage to another, and this becomes one of the unique features of the book.
Another interesting feature of the book is the perspective through which the story is told. The book brings back the reader’s childhood since it is written through Michiko’s point of view. She is so innocent that sometimes her comments tittle the sorrowful atmosphere and make everyone laugh. For example, when Michiko’s mother wanted her daughter to guess where she got the pearl, Michiko answered candidly, “They came from Pearl Harbor.”
Moreover, Japanese words appear everywhere in the texture of the writing allowing the primer of the mother tongue to shine through. These scattered words not only arouse the reader’s curiosity but also create a strong feeling of connection to Japan’s culture and tradition.
Although “When the Cherry Blossoms Fell” is a short novel, it contains profound meanings and metaphors that push the reader to reflect on their own identity.