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Don’t miss the Epilogue!
A couple of readers asked about Oh!'s ending and it turned out they missed the Epilogue. It's several pages after the last chapter in the midst of stunning art so is easy to miss. Of course, read the Epilogue last!
Oh! – synopsis
Oh! A mystery of “mono no aware” follows Zack Hara, a young Japanese American from Los Angeles searching for an emotionally meaningful life while traveling in Japan. Zack finds an ally in a professor and underground poet who introduces him to the concept of mono no aware, roughly translated as the emotive essence of things, most often thought of as the sadness in beauty. Cherry blossoms are the prototypical mono no aware objects. They explode in beauty after winter’s doldrums, trumpeting life for only a few days before they die.
The professor, grieving for a missing daughter, assigns Zack a set of mysterious tasks, among them: find a pear-shaped stone, learn of a memory of Zack’s grandfather in his childhood village, commit a petty crime. Zack enlists the help of a young English teacher named Kumiko, who is trying to become a literary translator but is disillusioned by the competitive business. Zack’s search for self-discovery turns into a search for the professor’s missing daughter, and draws him into the tragic phenomenon of web-based suicide clubs.
Along with fiction and intriguing bits of non-fiction, the novel includes art, sketches, and photography by LJC (Linda) Shimoda, which illustrates and further explains mono no aware. These elements provide a contrast with the sensibilities of the old Japanese aesthetic term and urgency of finding meaning in the hyper-connected world. They are also described as “exhibits” which foreshadow and compound the mystery of Zack’s ultimate fate.
Talking about “Oh!”
Shimoda's novel unravels like a Japanese scroll–one cannot put it down until the last scene comes into full view and, with it, the realization that the realm of feelings (mono no aware) is far from being an innocent enterprise; it carries risks that one must be ready to pay in order to fully understand. This is a brilliant novel--it makes the reader feel the pleasure of thinking.
Michael F. Marra, professor of Japanese literature, UCLA
The mysterious tension between material things and emotional attachment to them oscillates throughout Japanese history and culture. With a keen and sympathetic eye, Todd Shimoda explores an individual’s dangerous quest to waken his numb soul to this exquisite reverberation.
Liza Dalby, author of
Hidden Buddhas and The Tale of Murasaki
This book has heart and humor by the wheel-barrowful. It also brims with mono no aware. But to get closer to what this means, you will need to accompany Oh!’s author on this mysterious journey toward awareness. Jeff Snodgrass, author of Casting Kings