Beside a Burning Sea by John Shors takes place in 1942 near the Solomon Islands. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor less than one year ago, and the United States is embroiled in war. On a U.S. hospital ship are 9 men and women who will survive the bombing of the ship and swim to a nearby island to wait for their rescue. One of the survivors is the person who sabotaged the ship, and the other people don’t find out until it’s almost too late.
Here’s your cast of characters:
- Joshua and Isabelle – married, but separated for all intents and purposes. Joshua was the captain of the ship and Isabelle is a nurse.
- Annie – Isabelle’s single sister who is a nurse.
- Roger – the trucculent American who can’t get along with anyone and has definite anger issues.
- Akira – the Japanese soldier who’d been injured and was being cared for on the American hospital ship. He used to be a professor but was forced to join the Army.
- Ratu – a young Fijian boy who ends up bonding with Jake.
- Jake – nicknamed Big Jake, is an engineer who previously was a farmer. He takes Ratu under his wing.
- Scarlet – a nurse.
- Nathan – an officer in the war.
The friendships and love that are forged during the 18 days they spend waiting to be rescued are heartwarming and moving. But what’s even better is that there’s the traitor in their midst, so while you watch Jake and Ratu forge a beautiful relationship, your heart is pounding as you wonder if they’ll even make it off the island alive, since the traitor intends to kill everyone when the Japanese arrive.
This was an almost-perfect book for me. I loved the character development and watching the group do their best to survive on the island. I loved the suspense of wondering when the group would figure out who the traitor was and how far the traitor’s plans would progress until he was thwarted.
Unfortunately for you, dear reader, I don’t really have any criticisms of Beside a Burning Sea! I hate to give you all good and no bad, because I think a mention of what *didn’t* work in a book is necessary, but I have no complaints!
I’m hesitant to tell you this book reminded me of Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, which I personally thought was fabulous, but I know many didn’t like Bel Canto and I would hate for you not to read Beside a Burning Sea just because you didn’t like Bel Canto (I’m looking at you, Lisa!).
Bottom line: this will be one of my favorite books of the year. After reading Beside a Burning Sea, I’m chomping at the bit to read Beneath a Marble Sky and the author’s newest book, Dragon House, which will be released on September 1, 2009.
Rating: 96 out of 100