What’s The Sea of Trees all about?:
The Sea of Trees is the second story in this collection by Randy Taguchi which tells the story of three boys who face a frightening lesson in mortality. All the tales in this book feature Mount Fuji in some way, which serves as the anchor for these characters and is an exploration of redemption, discovery, loss and remembrance and the eternal bond with the mystical natural powers that connect us all.
What did I think?:
There are three main characters in this story, boys named Satoshi, Yuji and Jun, the latter of which is introduced as our narrator for the duration. The boys have completely different personalities varying along the scale of introvert to extrovert as we can tell from the start, but have all become friends and celebrating their last time together before going off to separate high schools. They decide to do this by visiting the woodland known as The Sea of Trees by Mount Fuji, a spot known notoriously as “suicide central,” a peaceful place where people decide to end their lives.
“They say that if you got lost in here you’d never escape. It was supposedly a natural maze, and even magnetic compasses went haywire in this dangerous forest.”
The boys are filled with trepidation and excitement about their journey through the forest and their eventual camp site, but prepare their way with plenty of chocolate (for energy of course) and mark their progress through the woods by looping bright tape around trees, almost like a trail of breadcrumbs. As they reach their camp for the night, the conversation turns to more serious topics such as life and death, and the concept of the self in relation to how we view the world. The tale turns a lot more sinister however, when secrets emerge from all three boys that they have never told anyone before, and they literally stare death in the face for the first time.
I know that I’m only on the second of the stories from this collection but this one has to be my favourite so far. The characters of all three boys were all so different and incredibly complex, especially the character of Yuji who gave me quite conflicting emotions – he was both fascinating and slightly scary while closer to the end of the story, made me feel a great deal of pity towards him. When the boys face a situation of life and death in the forest, I couldn’t put the book down until I knew how it was going to end. Believe me, you are going to want to read this haunting, spiritual and poignant view of death that may make you look at things in a whole different light.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Reeling for the Empire by Karen Russell, from the collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove