In the Realm of Ash and Sorrow - Book Review

In the Realm of Ash and Sorrow

Author: Kenneth Harmon
Genre: Fiction - Historical
Publisher: Kenneth W Harmon
Date Published: January 2, 2020
ISBN-10: 0578591502

Book Review of :  In the Realm of Ash and Sorrow


In the Realm of Ash and Sorrow, is a historically based fictional novel by Kenneth W. Harmon. He weaves his story by ingeniously blending his created dream world with reality as he narrates the saga of his characters. From the opening sentence announcing American bombardier Micah Lund's death on a bombing mission over Hiroshima, the narrative becomes one of fantasy or of a dream world. The ghost of Micah is attracted to Kiyami, a young widow who witnessed his untimely and tragic death. Kiyami is struggling to feed and protect her daughter, Ai, while living in the household of her demanding in-laws.  The story of Micah and Kiyami's interaction through the magic of dreams is also a story of contrasting cultures and political awareness. 

Upon Micah's death, he discovers that he can see the living and the dead. His attraction to Kiyami and interest in her life compel him to observe but not haunt her.  He is impressed with her tenaciousness and strength of will as she struggles to protect and feed her daughter. Micah is horrified by the suffering that the Japanese population is experiencing as a result of the bombing. He deals with extreme guilt in contributing to the destruction and suffering he sees and wonders why his spirit has remained in Japan. His story as a ghost is broadened by his recollections of his former existence with his family in Bellingham, Washington.

Harmon's narration alternates between Micah's story and Kiyami's appalling chronicle of desperation as a war survivor. The constant fear and anxiety she endures from the ongoing bombing raids and the terror she experiences from the warning sirens that scream out at night make her life a living hell. Her dilemma is made more distressful by the unpredictable family dynamics.

Through Ai's spiritual awareness of astral projection, she joins Micah in the magical place of dreams. Later, Kiyami also accepts the reality of Micah's spiritual plane of existence. The story follows the couple in the spirit world. In this place of illusion and magic, animals are endowed with supernatural abilities and the gift of reason.  Micah struggles with growing feelings of love towards Kiyami while mulling over their racial, cultural, and political differences.

Kiyami's fear of Americans and Micah's training to hate his countries enemies create a clash between them. Both characters deal with ingrained intolerance for other cultures and beliefs. As they begin to see one another as unique individuals with similar morals, and from that understanding, empathy begins to develop.

The horrors, revulsions, stomach-turning results of the bombings are reminiscent of the horrific visuals of "Schindler's List." The author's descriptions of Japan and its culture will elicit a strong desire to learn more about Japanese society. The inclusion of Japanese phrases increases the readers' immersion into the culture. However, we learn that in the spirit world, all speak in a universal language.

The author's ability to write a descriptive narrative of the Japanese way of life, their culture, and customs in the 1940s - inclusive of Japanese philosophical beliefs are compelling.  The unusual combination of historical fiction as seen through ghost/fantasy, the experiences of the dead, and dreams create a tale with moral lessons of love and forgiveness.  The author's research and personal knowledge of WWII, and the bombing of Hiroshima "blast" this novel to the top of culturally enlightened historical genre.

Reviewed by: Carole W

About Kenneth Harmon


Kenneth W. Harmon lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with his wife and daughters. The award winning author of four novels, he is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Japan-America Society of Colorado, and Historical Writers of America. You can find out more about Kenneth at


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