Hiroshima by John Hersey


Hiroshima by John Hersey (978-067972103) and the cat, Max

A handful of weeks ago when my husband left to spend the night with friends for drinking and male camaraderie, I did not expect him to return with the material I would need for a blog post. I also didn’t expect to read Hiroshima in a day while waiting for my father-in-law to return my husband to the city days after Christmas. As a newlywed and all-around needy wife, I don’t really enjoy it when Brakk is away, but both aforementioned times, it worked out rather well.

Our copy of Hiroshima came to us via a friend named Chris. Chris read out loud to his friends during a drunken get together and for whatever reason Brakk asked if he could bring the book home. Chris declined. However, he gifted this book as consolation, and I’m glad for it.

When I sat down to read I did so thinking it would pass some time while I was eating lunch at The Sandwich Shop and waiting for two of the most easily distracted men to pick me up. Ninety pages later, the diner closed and I moved on to Crazy Mocha (a coffee shop) down the street. The book is only 116 pages and by the time I got home that evening, I had 16 pages to finish it up.

Reading Hiroshima feels a lot like when you’re walking down the street and the sidewalk changes level unexpectedly. That step down, just a half an inch in difference, and your entire world seems to shift and all is a land of confusion. This is a sensation that is normally brought to a swift end once the second foot steps into it’s rightful place. While reading Hiroshima I seemed to live there.

As soon as each ‘character’ the author followed experienced the flash of light, everyone was simply grappling for a sense of normalcy. A touchstone to remind them that this is not the way their world always was or always would be. While the majority of these victims were desperately seeking medical attention and/or loved ones many were simultaneously preparing for the day ahead. But that normalcy never came.

I read a review of this book on Goodreads in which the writer complained that they did not like the ‘dramatization’ of the book. I think this reviewer expected facts and figures, which when important the reader does receive. This book is not intended to be a scientific text on the subject. The author tries, and succeeds to show this horrific and world changing event through the eyes of not even the vast majority, but six simple people.

What struck me most is how different they seemed from each other when I read the first chapters and in the end they were all sadly, and not by their own hands, roughly the same.

The book is depressing, this is not a disputable fact. Nevertheless, one finds incredible humanity in the wake of this tragedy. One man, while stepping through dead and dying to help others apologizes endlessly for having supplies, for being uninjured, for being alive.

Our copy was printed in 1959 and cost $.35 and I had no idea this was a famous read when I popped it in my purse. I wasn’t aware it was a Pulitzer Prize winner or that the author had written more than this title. I learned that from Wikipedia. All the same, I am not surprised that this book floored many Americans and while it was a painful and heartbreaking read, I will return it to the shelf just a little bit wiser.

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2 Responses to Hiroshima by John Hersey

  1. Christy says:

    I love the story of how this book came to be in your possession. But, it’s a depressing book and he was reading it out loud drunk a drunken get together? lol – that doesn’t sound very fun. Seriously though, this sounds like an interesting book.

    • LOL-
      They weren’t reading Hiroshima that night. Brakk can’t remember what book they were reading, but knowing the set of men it most likely had something to do with protecting a herd or warring to save a land of some sort.

      It is an interesting book and like I said, a fairly quick read.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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