The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck
Kino and Jiya both live in Japan by the sea. Kino lives farther from the ocean and is the son of a farmer while Jiya lives right on the beach and is the son of a fisherman. The two are best friends. When they are not busy working with their families they spend all their time together in various games. They often swim to a small island nearby with a castle on it. An old man lives in the castle, but they rarely see him.
A volcano is nearby, but so is the ocean. Kino’s father tells him of the danger of the volcano and Jiya tells Kino of the danger of the ocean. Kino asks his father how they are supposed to live with so much danger around and his father tells him that they must live anyway despite the danger. They may die or a storm, or from the volcano, or from old age. Everyone will die.
One day there is an earthquake accompanied by a small eruption from the volcano. This causes a storm. Some of the people from the beach are sent to safety at the castle. Jiya is sent away from his family in a nick of time. A tsunami comes and wipes out the entire village on the beach. Jiya’s entire family is gone. He goes to live with Kino and his family. They let him be for some time. Kino’s father tells him that Jiya will be sad for a while, but life is stronger than death and he will live again as time goes by. Jiya is offered a spot at the old man’s castle, but chooses to stay on the farm with Kino and his family.
Both boys grow up. Jiya wants to be a fisherman again. People have gone back to the beach knowing that one day a tsumani could once again destroy the village. Jiya wants to marry Kino’s sister and be a fisherman. The sea calls to him as the land calls to Kino. Both boys live despite the danger of life.
What I liked
I really liked this. I’ve been a fan of Pearl for a while now, but I had never read this book before. It’s very profound. Life is stronger than death. All kinds of crap can happen to you in life. You can get sick. Your family can all be killed. Your dog can be ran over. You could get your leg cut off. You could get hit by a bus and live. Despite all of that, you’re still alive and you’re still going. Life goes on seemingly no matter what goes on with it. Even if you do die and your life stops, life will go on around you. Your family will go on. Your friends will go on. People will remember you and talk about you. Even in your death, you have something of a life because life is in fact stronger than death.
I love it.
I also really liked that this book was about Japan. Pearl spent most of her time in China and did a lot of good work there. Japan wasn’t something she usually wrote about. I used to live in Japan and I was there when the tsunami hit in 2011, although I wasn’t on the mainland. We got a wave that was a foot and a half high and that’s not much out of the ordinary for Okinawa. What happened in mainland Japan was like something out of an awful disaster movie. It was devastating. I can’t imagine being Jiya and watching as his entire family is washed away in a giant wave. Pearl really captures the severity and terribleness of the situation.
What I didn’t like
This is sad. Jiya lost his entire family. So many people were lost. Why didn’t they leave when people told them to leave? We can be stubborn as human beings and think our own advice is better than anyone else’s. It’s just too bad.
This book is another credit to Pearl.
What do you think about living in spite of the danger?
Does living in spite of the danger give people an excuse to live in disaster prone areas without the proper precautions?