“A riveting mosaic of reportage and reflection.” –Elle Magazine
From one of the preeminent and most admired observers of the natural world, a heartrending and inspirational portrait of Japan after the 2011 tsunami, when survivors found their world utterly transformed by loss, grief, destruction, and the urgent need to reconstruct their homes, their towns, and their lives.
A passionate student of Japanese poetry, theater, and art for much of her life, Gretel Ehrlich felt compelled to return to the earthquake-and-tsunami-devastated Tohoku coast to bear witness, listen to survivors, and experience their terror and exhilaration in villages and towns where all shelter and hope seemed lost. In an eloquent narrative that blends strong reportage, poetic observation, and deeply felt reflection, she takes us into the upside-down world of northeastern Japan, where nothing is certain and where the boundaries between living and dying have been erased by water.
The stories of rice farmers, monks, and wanderers; of fishermen who drove their boats up the steep wall of the wave; and of an eighty-four-year-old geisha who survived the tsunami to hand down a song that only she still remembered are both harrowing and inspirational. Facing death, facing life, and coming to terms with impermanence are equally compelling in a landscape of surreal desolation, as the ghostly specter of Fukushima Daiichi, the nuclear power complex, spews radiation into the ocean and air. Facing the Wave is a testament to the buoyancy, spirit, humor, and strong-mindedness of those who must find their way in a suddenly shattered world.
Praise for Facing the Wave
“Ehrlich offers always startling work that has deservedly won her a PEN New England’s Henry David Thoreau Prize for excellence in nature writing…expect first-rate observation offered with intimate insight.” –Library Journal
“Lyrical, meandering dispatches and eyewitness accounts from the devastation of the 2011 tsunami in Japan…Ehrlich renders the enormity of loss in a fashion comprehensible to her American readers…eloquent.” –Kirkus
“Gifted, adventurous, and extolled nature writer Ehrlich has abiding connections to Japan, so she returned there soon after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami…Ehrlich’s invaluable chronicle subtly raises questions about coastal disasters, global warming, and nuclear power as the beauty and precision of her prose and her profound and knowledgeable insights into nature’s might and matters spiritual and cultural evoke a deep state of awe and sympathy.”—Donna Seaman, Booklist
“Ms. Ehrlich’s book adds flesh and soul and spirit to the bare bones of news reporting, filling the void left by the media and reminding us that real people live behind the headlines.” –New York Journal of Books
Gretel Ehrlich is the author of This Cold Heaven, The Future of Ice, and The Solace of Open Spaces, among other works of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. She lives in Wyoming.