Chronicling in poetry one teen’s interior journey to process and understand the sudden, completely life-altering tragedy that has struck his family, his village and his country, Up from the Sea is a delicate and deep novel-in-verse that shows how we learn to go on living, and start anew, even after unprecedented loss.
On March 11, 2011, 17-year-old Kai cared only about the school day ending so he could practice soccer with his friends. But when the 14th largest earthquake in the world strikes the Tohoku region of Japan and, following closely on its heels, one of the largest tsunamis ever recorded decimates 300 miles of coastline, Kai’s life becomes literally, mentally and emotionally flooded. The tsunami completely wipes away Kai’s entire village, and he’s at such a loss that he doesn’t even want to try to tie together the shreds of his former life to make anything out of what’s left. But when Kai learns of an opportunity to visit New York City to speak with the children who survived that city’s tragedy a decade ago on September 11, 2001, he remembers that NYC is where his long-absent American father last lived. He’s at first desperate and then determined to demand either aid or answers from the man.
Author Leza Lowitz uses her first-hand experiences of living in Japan when the earthquake and tsunami struck to weave together a memorable amalgam of people and places. As the full meaning of Kai’s loss dawns on him, we witness all his worry, angst, anger, survivor’s guilt and sadness, as well as his eventual coping and recovery, providing a rare view of the human spirit.
Justin Barisich is a freelancer, satirist, poet and performer living in Atlanta. More of his writing can be found at littlewritingman.com.