We label our ethnicities, religions, genders, our sexuality. In a world defined by labels, the ones we wear openly and the ones we seem to hide behind, it can be difficult to find ourselves, to find what separates us from the millions of other people. It is our individuality, our thoughts and experiences, which transcends those labels and make us truly one of a kind. In her debut novel Megume and the Trees, now available from Megami Press, author Sarah Toshiko Hasu blends her own powerful story with Japanese folklore in order to create a fresh and extremely unique twist to the overarching “fiction” label.
Megume and the Trees, while aimed at the “young adult” crowd, has something for everyone. In the whirlwind story, we learn about the life and hardships of fifteen- year-old Megume. After enduring a number of personal tragedies, including having to give up Sasurai, her loyal pooch and constant companion, Megume finds herself running in the woods, not sure if she’s running towards something familiar or away from something painful. What ensues can only be described as a deeply personal journey that forces Megume to come face to face with pieces of her past that she didn’t know existed.
Throughout the short novel, I found myself recalling my own emotions at fifteen, when hormones were running rampant and every day seemed like it could make or break the rest of my life. Megume and the Trees deals with some very hard-hitting issues, things every teenager deals with but not everyone can overcome. Megume’s interactions with the colorful characters she meets in her journey, along with the references to Japanese culture (although I did have to look up what sukiyaki was) only enhanced the story and help Megume come to the realization that a label does not define who you are.
Despite its short length, Megume and the Trees is an extremely powerful novel that had me laughing, crying, and holding my own dog tightly in my arms. Sarah Toshiko Hasu’s story is as heartwarming as it is gut-wrenching. Megume’s journey to self-discovery isn’t an easy one by any means, but it’s one that needs to be told. Megume and the Trees is written in an extremely unique style that puzzled me at first but constantly kept me reading, wondering what young Megume was going to experience next.