The Gods of Heavenly Punishment: A Novel (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Three lives are tragically linked in this beautifully written, haunting story of wartime Japan. Cam Richards adores his wife Lacy, he has everything to live for when he climbs into the cockpit of his plane and heads toward Tokyo on a daredevil fire bombing raid that will decimate the city. Yoshi’s Mom was multi-lingual, western educated and drop dead gorgeous, and her Dad was a very traditional Japanese man with a successful business as a building contractor. It was not an auspicious union. Yoshi is in Tokyo when those planes reach their target. Billy’s Dad Anton is a gifted architect; they lived in Japan for years before the war. As WWII heats up, Anton will help the Pentagon destroy the landscape he helped create. Billy is an occupation soldier back in Japan with his camera and his secret. These characters feel real, their story both tragic and hopeful.


— Deon Stonehouse


"Showcases war’s bitter ironies…as well as its romantic serendipities." —Vogue

One summer night in prewar Japan, eleven-year-old Billy Reynolds takes snapshots at his parents’ dinner party. That same evening his father Anton—a prominent American architect—begins a torrid affair with the wife of his master carpenter. A world away in New York, Cameron Richards rides a Ferris wheel with his sweetheart and dreams about flying a plane. These three men will all draw together to shape the fate of a young girl caught in the midst of one of World War II’s most horrific events—the 1945 firebombing of Tokyo

Exquisitely rendered, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment tells the stories of families on both sides of the Pacific: their loves and infidelities, their dreams and losses—and their shared connection to one of the most devastating acts of war in human history.

About the Author

Jennifer Cody Epstein is the author of the international best-selling novel The Painter from Shanghai, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment (the 2013 Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association adult fiction honor recipient), and most recently, Wunderland. She has written for the Wall Street Journal, Vogue, Self, Mademoiselle, and others. Epstein earned her MFA in fiction from Columbia University and an MA in international affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters.

Praise For…

Triumphant…Big, visceral, achingly humane.
— Jennifer Egan

A page-turner thanks to its high-stakes adventure, torrid love affairs and characters so real they seem to follow you around…Gripping.
— O, The Oprah Magazine

Sweeping…[A] harrowing novel of destruction and creation.
— Library Journal (starred review)

Expansive…Bursting with characters and locales. Painful, authentic…and exquisite.
— Publishers Weekly

Jennifer Cody Epstein depicts the firebombing of Tokyo and concurrent events in unflinching but delicately rendered detail. Immaculately researched and deeply imagined, this is an astonishing novel whose battles and intimate encounters alike carry the force of electric jolt. I have never read anything else like it.
— Angela Davis-Gardner, author of Butterfly's Child

I dare you to read this and not be swept up. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is shocking and delicate in equal measure.

— Debra Dean, author of The Mirrored World and The Madonnas of Leningrad

Beautifully researched and evoked, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment brings to haunting, dramatic life one of the most destructive acts of warfare ever perpetrated. In its passion and sweep, this lovely book does artful justice to the profound, contradictory connections between victims and victors, public histories and private lives.

— John Burnham Schwartz, author of The Commoner and Reservation Road

With the drama and sweep of The English Patient and a rich, painterly sensibility all her own, Jennifer Cody Epstein has created an indelible portrait of the war in the Pacific, seen through the eyes of six characters whose stories will haunt you long after the final brush stroke.

— Hillary Jordan, author of Mudbound
Product Details
ISBN: 9780393347883
ISBN-10: 0393347885
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: January 13th, 2014
Pages: 400
Language: English