Ghosts of the Tsunami
On 11 March 2011, a massive earthquake sent a 120-foot-high tsunami smashing into the coast of north-east Japan. By the time the sea retreated, more than 18,500 people had been crushed, burned to death, or drowned.It was Japan’s greatest single loss of life since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. It set off a national crisis, and the meltdown of a nuclear power plant. And even after the immediate emergency had abated, the trauma of the disaster continued to express itself in bizarre and mysterious ways.Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, lived through the earthquake in Tokyo, and spent six years reporting from the disaster zone. There he encountered stories of ghosts and hauntings. He met a priest who performed exorcisms on people possessed by the spirits of the dead. And he found himself drawn back again and again to a village which had suffered the greatest loss of all, a community tormented by unbearable mysteries of its own.What really happened to the local children as they waited in the school playground in the moments before the tsunami? Why did their teachers not evacuate them to safety? And why was the unbearable truth being so stubbornly covered up?Ghosts of the Tsunami is a classic of literary non-fiction, a heart-breaking and intimate account of an epic tragedy, told through the personal accounts of those who lived through it. It tells the story of how a nation faced a catastrophe, and the bleak struggle to find consolation in the ruins.

Ghosts of the Tsunami Details

TitleGhosts of the Tsunami
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseAug 31st, 2017
PublisherJonathan Cape
ISBN-139781911214175
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Cultural, Japan, History, Asia

Ghosts of the Tsunami Review

  • Kathleen
    January 1, 1970
    My review for the Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifesty...In sheer scope, certain natural disasters outstrip all quantitative efforts to describe them. Undoubtedly, the data on the Tohoku earthquake can help to express the vastness of the catastrophe: On March 11, 2011, the most powerful earthquake recorded in Japan — 9.1 on the Richter scale — occurred 20 miles beneath the sea about 250 miles from Tokyo. The quake triggered a 120-foot tsunami that devoured the coast of northeas My review for the Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifesty...In sheer scope, certain natural disasters outstrip all quantitative efforts to describe them. Undoubtedly, the data on the Tohoku earthquake can help to express the vastness of the catastrophe: On March 11, 2011, the most powerful earthquake recorded in Japan — 9.1 on the Richter scale — occurred 20 miles beneath the sea about 250 miles from Tokyo. The quake triggered a 120-foot tsunami that devoured the coast of northeast Japan, killing more than 18,000 people and causing Level 7 meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.Past a certain point, though, such figures defy comprehension, and a more narrative and personalized approach is required to achieve real understanding of the human, environmental and monetary costs. Fortunately, Richard Lloyd Parry’s remarkably written and reported “Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone” provides such an account of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which caused “the greatest single loss of life in Japan since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in 1945.”A British author and an award-winning journalist who has lived in Tokyo since 1995 where he works as the Asia editor of The Times of London, Parry is the author of two previous books of nonfiction, including 2007’s “In the Time of Madness: Indonesia on the Edge of Chaos” and 2012’s true crime tale “People Who Eat Darkness” about the disappearance and murder of Lucie Blackman in Tokyo.No stranger to covering distress and calamity, he turns his lucid journalistic gaze — as well as his mastery of plot and character — here on the events of that fatal March day. He mentions Fukushima, but concentrates on the tsunami itself, wisely finding an “exceptional tragedy” within the greater morass to give shape to what might otherwise remain overwhelming. Parry hones in on the Okawa Primary School, which — despite its frequent disaster preparedness drills and a 700-foot-tall hill behind the building — lost 74 of its 108 students and 10 of its 13 teachers and staff.In a gripping fashion, Parry builds his account around solving the excruciating mystery that haunts the parents of those who were killed: “the earthquake had struck at 2:46 p.m. The hands of the school clock were frozen at 3:37 p.m., when the building’s electricity was quenched by the rising water. This was the central question of the Okawa tragedy: What exactly happened between the first event and the second? What was going on … for the last fifty-one minutes of its existence?”In doing so, he produces a page-turner. In lesser hands, this tactic could seem ghoulish or exploitative — “an effort to squeeze spooky entertainment out of the tragedy.” But in Parry’s, the material gets assembled into a moving study of character and culture, love and loss, grief and responsibility.Parry studs the story with gems of language and detail, like how in the remote part of the countryside worst hit by the wave, the local brand of rice is called “Love at First Sight,” and how in Japan, people rarely say sayonara as Westerners think, but more often use the phrase itte kimasu, “which means literally, ‘Having gone, I will come back,’ ” a grimly ironic turn of phrase, considering how many people never did.He constructs the book as an exquisite series of nesting boxes of sorrow and compassion, giving readers the tale within the tale of Naomi, who becomes so determined to extract her daughter’s corpse from the ruins that she attends “a week-long course at a training center near Sendai” where “all the other participants were men” in order to earn her license to operate earth-moving equipment to up her chances of achieving her aim.Reminiscent of John Hersey’s classic “Hiroshima,” a devastatingly calm and matter-of-fact look at the dropping of the world’s first atomic bomb, Parry recounts this story with a necessary balance of detachment and investment. Significantly, unlike Hersey, Parry was in Japan during the disaster he’s describing, and so he includes the occasional first-person experience in his multilayered account.The result is a spellbinding book that is well worth contemplating in an era marked by climate change and natural disaster.
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  • Kirsti
    January 1, 1970
    Ok, such is reading these days that I started two other books but was drawn to reading this one on my Kindle instead. I had waited eagerly for it after requesting the book on Netgalley, but then it was archived and I thought I must have missed out until I got the joyful email I've come to love! Books <3Like many others, I watched with fascinated horror as first and Earthquake, then Tsunami, swept through Japan in 2011. That is, I watched from the safety of my living room, with no conception o Ok, such is reading these days that I started two other books but was drawn to reading this one on my Kindle instead. I had waited eagerly for it after requesting the book on Netgalley, but then it was archived and I thought I must have missed out until I got the joyful email I've come to love! Books <3Like many others, I watched with fascinated horror as first and Earthquake, then Tsunami, swept through Japan in 2011. That is, I watched from the safety of my living room, with no conception of the true disasters that day. Media rattle off figures and statistics; Richard takes us into the homes of the victims.Okawa school is the focus of this book, as well as the 74 children who died there. Gathered from interviewing both the survivors and relatives as well as other people in the community, we get a real sense of who these children were, who they were going to be. However, despite warnings from parents and officials patrolling the area, and perhaps even from the children themselves, the teachers decided to wait and see, and then evacuated them to a more dangerous area. They had no real plan in place for a Tsunami specifically. What we get here is a real glimpse at Japanese culture, especially illuminating because it is written by a foreigner who is living in Japan. He can't understand all the attitudes towards different things, but faithfully narrates them anyway. The writing remains an investigation, even as some of the stories become more personal and we as readers get more involved. There are depictions of death and grief, and even discussion of ghosts unable to move on.Although this was focused on one small area of the disaster zone and really is just a glimpse of the events there, I felt like this was a powerful story that needed to be told. As I said, I put aside two other books just to finish this instead, because once I started I need to know more. I think this book will appeal to the history buffs, but also to those who read strongly emotional stories that include both fact and account. I enjoyed the writing very much, and am glad I know more about this disaster now. Five stars.
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  • Lisa Cleveland
    January 1, 1970
    You can tell the years of research that went into this heartbreaking book. One of the saddest and most maddening things I've ever read. Highly recommended.
  • Sandy Weatherburn
    January 1, 1970
    A very absorbing and moving book. I was keen to read this as I have just become a student studying death religion and culture, and thought that this book would cover all aspects of this. Richard Lloyd Parry has spent 6 years meeting and interviewing some of the victims who were bereaved during the 2011 earthquake and consequential tsunami in Japan. The book focuses on Okawa primary school, where due to unfortunate circumstances, the reader learns why so many of the children died in the catastrop A very absorbing and moving book. I was keen to read this as I have just become a student studying death religion and culture, and thought that this book would cover all aspects of this. Richard Lloyd Parry has spent 6 years meeting and interviewing some of the victims who were bereaved during the 2011 earthquake and consequential tsunami in Japan. The book focuses on Okawa primary school, where due to unfortunate circumstances, the reader learns why so many of the children died in the catastrophic event. Parents of the children explain to the author how they coped with their grief, and how they need to prove the negligence of the school staff was so important to them. There was clearly a period of time when the staff had the opportunity to lead the children to safety, but due to a poorly written emergency action plan, this did not happen. As the descriptive story of the disaster is told, as a parent myself, the details of the situation are both absorbing and harrowing to read. The author explains how some of the children, who were normally well behaved and were used to doing what they were told, had realised they needed to run for safety, but their teachers insisted that they remain at the school. The reader learns how the community dealt with the enormity of the loss of life both practically and emotionally. The Japanese culture and ancestral worship are explained in great detail. The parents who had lost their children needed to find their bodies to be able to accept their deaths. In some cases, this meant that the parents were searching for body parts using diggers and looking in expanses of mud, for any small indicators that their children were there. I learned a lot about Japanese culture from reading this book, and now appreciate the effects of such a catastrophic disaster on the lives of so many. This book is an excellent account of a catastrophic loss of human life, that I understand more deeply after reading.
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  • Patrick McCoy
    January 1, 1970
    The tsunami from the March 2011 earthquake affected me as I was living in Japan, but I was living in Tokyo and knew few people from Tohoku where the earthquake caused the most damage-so it was somewhat of an abstraction for me. Richard Lloyd Parry's book Ghosts Of The Tsunami (2017) did an excellent job of putting that abstraction into perspective by focusing on one specific tragedy-one school in Okawa where 74 children were killed-almost every other school in Tohoku was properly evacuated save The tsunami from the March 2011 earthquake affected me as I was living in Japan, but I was living in Tokyo and knew few people from Tohoku where the earthquake caused the most damage-so it was somewhat of an abstraction for me. Richard Lloyd Parry's book Ghosts Of The Tsunami (2017) did an excellent job of putting that abstraction into perspective by focusing on one specific tragedy-one school in Okawa where 74 children were killed-almost every other school in Tohoku was properly evacuated save this one. So in one sense this is a sort of mystery story-why didn't the school evacuate to higher ground and then it became the source of closure for many parents who lost their children-the need to know why and assign blame to someone or something. But is it also an indictment of educational institutions, the failure of institution was a theme that Parry also explored in his previous book about the Lucie Blackman murder investigation, People Who Eat Darkness, in which he finds fault with the police institution which mishandled the case. Parry is quick to point out that the individuals involved are often exemplary, but things get sticky when the institutions themselves get involved-they seem to be self protective in nature and forget they have been established for the populace. There are several heartbreaking stories of personal loss that put a faces to the tragedy where 18,000 people perished, it is a heart breaking event that will not be easily forgotten by anyone who lived through it-myself included. Parry struggles to remain objective, but the reporting exposes petty grudges between survivors who recovered their children, only lost one child, and other pointless distinctions-are there levels of grief? Maybe, but there should be empathy for everyone. One of the reasons the book came out six years after the fact is that the case agiasnt the school board of Okawa for negligence was nto settled until 2016, which was quick according to Parry's investigation, which highlights another poorly working institution, the courts and legal system (but that's another book). Parry has written another powerful and expertly researched and reported book that reveals much about the Japanese people in this story of closure from the great Tohoku earthquake of 2011.
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  • GONZA
    January 1, 1970
    What happened the day of the earthquake and the consequent Tsunami, we Europeans can only imagine and get a glimpse from pictures and stories told by journalist, but while everybody was worried for the nuclear power plant of Fukujima, there were the parents of almost of a hundred children from the primary school who lost their kids in the big black whale, due to bureaucratic shit and bad human choices. Their stories and their loss is something I will never forget.Quello che é successo il giorno What happened the day of the earthquake and the consequent Tsunami, we Europeans can only imagine and get a glimpse from pictures and stories told by journalist, but while everybody was worried for the nuclear power plant of Fukujima, there were the parents of almost of a hundred children from the primary school who lost their kids in the big black whale, due to bureaucratic shit and bad human choices. Their stories and their loss is something I will never forget.Quello che é successo il giorno del terremoto e del conseguente Tsunami, noi europei lo possiamo vagamente immaginare dalle immagini e dai racconti giornalistici, ma mentre tutti erano preoccupati - giustamente - per la centrale nucleare di Fukujima, c'erano i genitori del quasi centinaio di bambini della scuola elementare di Okawa che non avrebbero piú rivisto i propri figli, per colpa di stupide decisioni burocratiche ed errori umani. Le loro storie ed il loro dolore non é qualcosa che si possa dimenticare facilmente.THANKS TO NETGALLEY FOR THE PREVIEW!
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  • Anjana
    January 1, 1970
    A well written explanation about the 2011 triple tragedy that stuck Japan. This is a first hand narrative of a journalist who visited these areas right from after the tragedy and followed up the issues till a closure. I would recommend this to anyone aiming at getting to the facts but definitely not a light read. The author has focused on the Okawa school case which is the single incident in Japan where majority of children lost their lives in tsunami. Keeping this at prime importance, the autho A well written explanation about the 2011 triple tragedy that stuck Japan. This is a first hand narrative of a journalist who visited these areas right from after the tragedy and followed up the issues till a closure. I would recommend this to anyone aiming at getting to the facts but definitely not a light read. The author has focused on the Okawa school case which is the single incident in Japan where majority of children lost their lives in tsunami. Keeping this at prime importance, the author goes through the lives of priests, lawyers, teachers, government officials and many such other people, before, during and after the catastrophe struck. An overall good read.For a detailed review please visithttps://passatempo420.wordpress.com/2...
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  • Josh Yates
    January 1, 1970
    Heart chokingly sad and, for the most part well detailed.There was one piece of information that I felt was missing... will edit this later as I want to search it out in Japanese to see if what I have heard about this point to be documented... (there seems to be nothing in English)Not as good as RLP's last book, but as I would consider that to be an absolutely amazing work, this is a second place finish to a world champion of reporting.Very much worth a read if you aren't the type to fall apart Heart chokingly sad and, for the most part well detailed.There was one piece of information that I felt was missing... will edit this later as I want to search it out in Japanese to see if what I have heard about this point to be documented... (there seems to be nothing in English)Not as good as RLP's last book, but as I would consider that to be an absolutely amazing work, this is a second place finish to a world champion of reporting.Very much worth a read if you aren't the type to fall apart at the subject matterhttps://japantoday.com/category/featu...
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  • Geoffrey Bunting
    January 1, 1970
    Beautiful, haunting, and moving - along with other cliched reviews. This book had the singular ability to move me and keep me up at night.
  • Chloë
    January 1, 1970
    RTCSpookathon 2017 ~ Challenge number 2: Read a book with a spooky word in the title.Challenge number 3: Read a book based on a childhood fear.
  • Philip Price
    January 1, 1970
    The book is as gripping as it is moving, and I also like that the author is not afraid to lay blame in no uncertain terms where he feels it is due. I very much hope that the book will be translated into Japanese so that the Hiratsukas, the Shitos, the Tadanos, and all the other families who suffered so much loss on that dreadful day can feel some comfort and vindication in their ongoing grief.
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  • Lali
    January 1, 1970
    I can't deny of how much I love history books. History classes were always one of my favorites in school, I had the pleasure of having one of the best teachers ever teaching History classes, we had music and theater to get in the stories national and international. I have a few great history books in my heart: The Kite Runner, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Bookthief, The Scar of David and much more.And I have a special place in my heart for Japan actually. In Brazil we have a heavy Japanese culture I can't deny of how much I love history books. History classes were always one of my favorites in school, I had the pleasure of having one of the best teachers ever teaching History classes, we had music and theater to get in the stories national and international. I have a few great history books in my heart: The Kite Runner, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Bookthief, The Scar of David and much more.And I have a special place in my heart for Japan actually. In Brazil we have a heavy Japanese culture over us, part of population is made of Asian people where most of them came from Japan actually. Our televisions broadcast lots of Animes and we are always reading Mangas. I've always loved japanese culture and their food too, I've done so many cosplays in my life during anime conventions back in Brazil. I remember the news all over in 2011 when the Tsunami had striked but after the initial fuss of the media my mind had put in the back of my head. Then I stumbled over this book to get an ARC and I couldn't pass the opportunity to learn better and the insight of the people who suffered through the afterwards of the Tsunami. We are always so eager to see the thing happening that we forget that every action has a reaction and an after.How can someone survive this? What is worse: A war created by humans or nature taking its place back? I think I wouldn't be able to say which one is the worst. You are never ready when it happens. That's what happened with that tsunami back in 2011, no one thought it would be that massive, that brutal, that cruelest as it had been. Parents didn't see it coming, children didn't see it coming, elderly didn't see it coming and that speaks volumes being in Japan a country prepared for this kind of thing, the kind of magnitude of the tsunami that it was, the places it actually reached in its wrath path over the earth of the country.One day where everything had changed for many people and families. Places where they won't be able to live anymore or visit without feeling the pain of the loss. A book where we get to read and realise how lucky we are for not having this constant fear breathing down our necks. I'd be a nervous wreck thinking everyday something can happen and I wouldn't have anyone that I care closer to me anymore. It's not only the force of the nature, but how we human beings deal with the afterwards. It's the show of compassion, solidarity and selfless that shows us the worlds is still not lost.But it shows too how many years of culture and old traditions obstruct the justice. How the heavy burden of the past and of how we were raised turned us the way we are today and the judgment we get for stepping out of our molds of society. It's how our minds won't rest for justice of something it should be safe for everyone, that they should be ready and no one survived at the end, the mystery in it, the questions with no true answers.How can you rebuild your life, your family, yourself when everything is lost?This book covers so many different points of views, different kind os grieves, such different stories coming all from the same unfortunate event. I loved how the author composed the entire book telling the story behind all, the key points, the families, the other people and the ghosts. All the ghosts from the tsunami, showing something it will forever be part of Japan history now.It shows us, it reminds us about compassion, about love, about our families, about moving on and not moving on at all. About politics, about culture, about tradition and all those feeling in the middle. A great reading for people interest in this kind of literature and curiosity as I am.
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  • Yuliia
    January 1, 1970
    Short review:Oh, this book draws you in like no other. It is horrifying at some moments, at the others you get such a profound insight into events, people's minds, circumstances, life and even death. I feel like an invisible ghost who is standing right there - at the epicenter of the rawest emotions and most dreadful events.Long review. Warning: this is an extremely dark book with stories of death, spirits, exorcism and grief and pain beyond imaginable.If I knew this, I would have never started Short review:Oh, this book draws you in like no other. It is horrifying at some moments, at the others you get such a profound insight into events, people's minds, circumstances, life and even death. I feel like an invisible ghost who is standing right there - at the epicenter of the rawest emotions and most dreadful events.Long review. Warning: this is an extremely dark book with stories of death, spirits, exorcism and grief and pain beyond imaginable.If I knew this, I would have never started it... but once I started reading it, I just couldn't put it back.The tragic story of the tsunami on March 11 2011 that in one sweep took lives of 18,500 people and left rumble and never ending mud behind, is told by a journalist Richard Lloyd Parry, the Asia editor and Tokyo bureau chief of The Times. He writes really well... so well, that I couldn't put this book down even when I was really scared (Ghosts chapter) or really-really sad (most of the book). Lloyd zeros in on the story of Okawa Elementary School where seventy four school children died... needlessly. They could have escaped their deaths so easily. All they needed to do was to climb the hill to higher ground. Some boys even started doing that: they were panicked, were pleading with the teachers (some of whom agreed with the children), but authorities didn't listen to any of that. They dismissed the pleas and ordered the children to return. And then they led them exactly into the mouth of the tsunami, instead of away from it. It is a horrible, tragic story that needs to be shared nonetheless. Lloyd developed close relationships with the parents of deceased children and he writes so clearly about their mental anguish - it is heartbreaking. He writes about everything - facts, details, personal stories of opposite sides, Japan and it's bureaucratic system, lives of ordinary citizens and their mentality, priests, exorcism and ghosts. He writes about different topics, but the stories are intertwined beautifully, leaving you a bit dazed and eager to know more.Reading this book, I felt as if I glimpsed the tragedy firsthand.I understood much more about a tsunami, it's horrible powers and a life of people after a great disaster.
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    Ghosts of the Tsunami is an absolutely heartbreaking account of one small part of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in March 2011. Well-researched and -written, this book gives the slightest insight into the sheer enormity of the disaster and how people coped in the aftermath. Richard Lloyd Parry specifically focuses on the deaths of 74 children at the Okawa Primary School and questions of blame and responsibility. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in reading pers Ghosts of the Tsunami is an absolutely heartbreaking account of one small part of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in March 2011. Well-researched and -written, this book gives the slightest insight into the sheer enormity of the disaster and how people coped in the aftermath. Richard Lloyd Parry specifically focuses on the deaths of 74 children at the Okawa Primary School and questions of blame and responsibility. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in reading personal, first-hand accounts of the tsunami.I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Helena Pilih
    January 1, 1970
    This is really just the (heartwrenching) story of the Okawa Primary School. The book is written well but I wish it had gone deeper into the folklore and how it helped people cope. Currently, it's only 20% folklore and 80% retelling of what happened (in a very interesting way, mind you).
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  • jack
    January 1, 1970
    Over 18,000 died in the 2011 tsunami. Very personalized account of small town where school lost nearly all its young students. Much insight into Japanese culture.
  • Nicolás
    January 1, 1970
    A touching and deeply moving book. Highly recommended.
  • Lostwithoutabook
    January 1, 1970
    A hauntingly beautiful book about a community destroyed by the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Thoroughly researched with an engrossing writing style, I was absorbed in every page.
  • Donald
    January 1, 1970
    an absolute must read
  • Nikki
    January 1, 1970
     Ghosts of the Tsunami details the tragic events of the 2011 tsunami which killed over 20,000 people. The book focuses on the especially horrific loss of life at the Okawa Primary School. 74 of the 78 children who were at the school after the earthquake were killed by the resulting tsunami as well as 10 out of 11 teachers. Mr. Parry examines what caused this extraordinary loss. He speaks of how Japanese schools are typically reinforced with steel and are structurally sound in an effort to protec  Ghosts of the Tsunami details the tragic events of the 2011 tsunami which killed over 20,000 people. The book focuses on the especially horrific loss of life at the Okawa Primary School. 74 of the 78 children who were at the school after the earthquake were killed by the resulting tsunami as well as 10 out of 11 teachers. Mr. Parry examines what caused this extraordinary loss. He speaks of how Japanese schools are typically reinforced with steel and are structurally sound in an effort to protect the students. "No school collapsed or suffered serious physical damage in the earthquake. Nine of them were completely overwhelmed by the tsunami, and at one of them, in the town of Minami-Sanriku, a boy of thirteen was drowned as his class hurried to higher ground. But with one exception, every other school got all its children to safety" So who or what is to blame for the 74 dead children at the school. The book details the families who suffered this loss as they try to get answers as well as their resulting lawsuit against the school and town. I thought Mr. Parry did a fantastic job of researching all aspects of this tragedy by introducing the reader to several of the families that endured the loss of the children as well as to survivors from Okawa Primary School. The book delicately presents the facts rather than sensationalizing them in order to sell more copies. You can really feel how connected Mr. Parry was with the families and how he wanted to accurately portray their thoughts and feelings.I did have some difficulty getting through this book, not because it wasn't well written, but because of the age range that lost their life and the suffering of their surviving parents. Having previously worked at a daycare, I imagined myself in the situation of the teachers at this school and could not imagine that I would have left these children to perish in the way that they did. The teachers' ineptitude of doing their job of protecting these innocent lives made me incredibly angry and almost caused me to not want to finish this book. It's hard for me to truly know what I would have actually done in this position though. I think that it's a testament to how well-researched and well-written this book is that I had these thoughts. I thoroughly became invested in these families lives and joined them in their journey to potentially find answers and closure.But there was muck in her eyes, and there were no towels and no water, and so I licked Chisato's eyes with my tongue to wash off the muck, but I couldn't get them clean, and the muck kept coming out. A man said: "Every day I hear our son and daughter crying, screaming, 'Dad, help me!' They are crying out in my dreams. They never leave my dreams."
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