Beside A Burning Sea by John ShorsBeside A Burning Sea by John Shors

Beside A Burning Sea

byJohn Shors

Paperback | September 2, 2008

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From the author of Beneath a Marble Sky comes an inspiring new novel of a man and a woman from different worlds whose love is put to the ultimate test as they struggle to survive an extraordinary set of circumstances.

View our feature on John Shors' Beside a Burning Sea.

One moment, the World War II hospital ship Benevolence is patrolling the South Pacific on a mission of mercy—to save wounded American soldiers. The next, Benevolence is split in two by a torpedo, killing almost everyone on board. A small band of survivors, including an injured Japanese soldier and a young American nurse whom he saves from drowning, makes it to the deserted shore of a nearby island.

Akira has suffered five years of bloodshed and horror fighting for the Japanese empire. Now, surrounded by enemies he is supposed to hate, he instead finds solace in their company—and rediscovers his love of poetry. While sharing the mystery and beauty of this passion with Annie, the captivating but tormented woman he rescued, Akira grapples with the pain of his past while helping Annie uncover the promise of her future. Meanwhile, the remaining castaways endure a world not of their making—a world as barbaric as it is beautiful, as hateful as it is loving.

With the blend of epic storytelling and emotional intensity that distinguishes him as a unique talent, John Shors reveals a powerful story of redemption focusing on unlikely lovers, heroes and villains, and war-torn countries—all, in their own ways, fighting to survive.
John Shors traveled extensively throughout Asia after graduating from Colorado College in 1991, living for several years in Japan, where he taught English, and then trekking across the continent, visiting ten countries and climbing the Himalayas. More recently, Mr. Shors worked as a newspaper reporter in his hometown, Des Moines, Iowa,...
Title:Beside A Burning SeaFormat:PaperbackDimensions:448 pages, 8.2 × 5.6 × 1 inPublished:September 2, 2008Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0451224922

ISBN - 13:9780451224927

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Beside a Burning Sea I really loved the story in Beside a Burning Sea but I just felt like the writing in some placing was not up to par. I got the feeling like the author was trying to write about something that he really wasn't that sure of. Also I really didn't get the point of the use of haikus in the story and it just became so boring that anytime I saw something about them mentioned I would skip that paragraph because it was repetitive and not really needed.
Date published: 2018-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Shors' Weaves Another Masterful Tale In John Shors Beside a Burning Sea, you find yourself aboard a hospital ship in the South Pacific during WWll, where you meet Annie, a nurse, and her sister Isabelle, a POW patient, Akira, & the ships Captain Joshua. No sooner then you can keep everyones name straight, the ship is torpedoed, and sunk by the Japanese for carrying excess fuel supply. Survivors are marooned on a deserted island, and forced to face their own mortality, their fears, and their enemies. On the island, friendships are forged, heroes are revealed, treason is committed, and love is found - both for the first time, and again. This novel is epic and really does have everything, and is so expertly told, you wont want to put it down, it will call to you when youre not reading, and you will never want it to end. I highly recommend it, and encourage you to pick up the authors other works, they are all brilliant stories!
Date published: 2011-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant and Sweeping! The novel opens in September of 1942 in the Solomon Islands where the ship Benevolence, a U.S. hospital ship of five-stories high is cruising through the South Pacific at a speed of twelve knots per hour. The ship held five-hundred beds which were full of soldiers who suffered injuries and psychiatric disorders. There were several dozen navy doctors’ and nurses’ caring for them. The smell was unbearable from the unclean bodies, disinfectants, bleach and burnt flesh. In total, there were five-hundred and sixteen people on board. Two of the nurses’ who attended to these wounded were Annie and her older sister, Isabelle who is married to the ship’s captain, Joshua Collins. Suddenly the ship is hit with a Japanese torpedo, splits in half and those who didn’t go down with the ship or were already drowned were forced to swim to shore. Luckily both Annie and Isabelle made it, thanks to a soldier named Akira, (who was a Japanese soldier and their prisoner) who swam with Annie on his back when she became too tired and weak to continue on. She was still recovering from a bout with malaria. Only nine survivors made it to the island, including Isabelle’s husband, the Captain Joshua Collins. Akira was severely injured and his stitches had come loose during the arduous swim and the amount of blood he lost almost killed him. Isabelle and Annie had torn apart shirts and wrapped the wound saving Akira’s life. The Captain then began distributing orders to rescue items that may of use that dotted the shoreline of the island and quickly began to make shelters. Throughout the rest of the story they learn to catch fish to cook for meals along with the many mangos and bananas that the jungle behind the shore held. Not far into the story two very unlikely people fall in love, one among the survivor’s is a traitor who is communicating with the Japanese, one is young boy named Ratu who was a stow-away on the ship and he becomes fast friends with another of the survivors. As the days pass by they are ever vigilant in looking out to sea with binoculars looking for Japanese war-ships or Americans to save them. If they were to see Japanese war ships it would make their current environment very dangerous which led the Captain to begin scouting the island for an alternate shelter. In the 400 pages I was literally bawling my eyes out. This story goes from excellent to outstanding to brilliant!! John Shors has once again penned an incredible novel whose characters will stay with you for a long time to come. I know for me, Ratu and Big Jake will forever remain in my memory and everything Japanese will remind me of Haiku.
Date published: 2011-01-29

Bookclub Guide

A LETTER FROM JOHN SHORSWhen my first novel, Beneath a Marble Sky, was published as a paperback in 2006, I decided that I wanted to try and give something back to readers. After all, if people were going to buy my novel, tell their friends about it, and lend me their support, the least I could do was to be supportive in return. I opted to place a letter at the end of Beneath a Marble Sky that invited book clubs to invite me to participate in their discussions. I included my e-mail address. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure how my proposal would be received, though I had a hunch that readers wished for such interaction.I was fortunate in that over the following few months, Newsweek magazine and the CBS Evening News did stories on my book club program. And as a result of this publicity, I was inundated with requests to talk with book clubs. In fact, over the course of the ensuing year, I spoke (usually via speakerphone) with more than one thousand book clubs. Most of these clubs were based in the United States, though I spoke with groups from Canada to Zambia. And while most clubs were fairly traditional in their approach, others decided to wear saris, cook Indian food, hire henna painters—thereby getting into the spirit of Beneath a Marble Sky.Chatting with more than one thousand book clubs gave me a true appreciation for how carefully people read books. Time and time again, readers greatly impressed me with their insightful questions. As a result, I learned to never take the reader for granted. If people are going to invest hard-earned money into a book, and then take the time to read it, they deserve to experience something memorable.I’d like to end this note by expressing my profound gratitude to readers. Thank you for all of your support and encouragement. INTRODUCTIONSet in the backdrop of World War II, Beside a Burning Sea follows a man and woman from separate worlds, as the barbarity of war looms in the distance.One moment, the hospital ship Benevolence glides through the Pacific. In the next, it is engulfed in chaos, split in two by a torpedo. A small group of survivors makes it to the deserted shore of a nearby island, including Akira, a wounded Japanese soldier who saves a young nurse from death.Akira has spent five years surrounded by blood and horror. Now, surrounded by those he is supposed to hate, he instead finds solace in their company. Sharing the mystery and beauty of his favorite poems with the beautiful American woman he has rescued, he watches as the other survivors confront their own passions and demons. In their midst, a secret held by one of the castaways may determine whether any of them will ever see their homelands again. ABOUT JOHN SHORSJohn Shors traveled extensively throughout Asia after graduating from Colorado College in 1991. More recently, he worked in his hometown as a newspaper reporter in his hometown, Des Moines, Iowa, before entering public relations and moving to Boulder, Colorado. AN INTERVIEW WITH JOHN SHORSDuring your conversations with more than one thousand book clubs, what have been some of your more memorable moments?The conversations were fantastic, of course. But even more so have been the letters and e-mails that I received afterward. These contained wonderful messages, as well as photos of the groups (oftentimes with members wearing saris and covered in henna paintings).What’s something that you learned about book clubs during your many visits with them?I was quite surprised at the diversity of the book clubs I encountered. Not in terms of race or religion or political orientation, but in their approach to discussing Beneath a Marble Sky. For instance, some book clubs would take a rather studious approach, and come prepared with a variety of insightful questions. Other groups would be well into their third round of margaritas. I was never really sure what kind of group I’d be talking with.Why did you decide to write a novel set in World War II?I’ve always been fascinated by World War II. And I’ve felt that in the West we’ve tended to focus on the war in Europe. Having lived in Asia for several years, I’ve been intrigued by the intricacies of the war in that part of the world.Was it hard to go from writing about the Taj Mahal in Beneath a Marble Sky to World War II in Beside a Burning Sea?I think that transitioning from one book to another is a difficult process. After spending such a long time writing Beneath a Marble Sky, I became quite connected to its characters. And having to create a batch of new characters for Beside a Burning Sea felt somewhat like learning a new language. The voices in both novels are fairly unique, I believe, and giving life to such voices was a time-consuming process.Your first novel took place in India, and your second novel occurred in the South Pacific. Why do you like to write novels set overseas?I was lucky enough to grow up reading, and have consumed a couple of books a week for most of my life. I have always most enjoyed novels that took me to a new place, and that taught me something. Such novels prompted me to explore much of the world, in fact. And after visiting so many wonderful places, I decided that I wanted to share such locales with my readers.To that end, where will your next novel be set?It will take place in modern-day Saigon, and will involve a variety of characters from different parts of the world. The story is quite close to my heart, and I’m excited to see it unfold.What did you most enjoy about writing Beside a Burning Sea?The challenge of creating a setting—of fashioning a time and place of my own design—is immensely gratifying to me. I want my readers to feel as if they’ve visited the environs that I describe, and giving my novels the necessary richness to achieve that goal is a rewarding challenge. Of course, I also greatly enjoy the process of creating the overall story, and then of sitting down and actually bringing that story to life.For you, what is the hardest thing about writing?I tend to edit my novels a lot, as I want them to be as good as possible. And sometimes it takes a great deal of willpower to try and focus on rereading my novel for, say, the twentieth time. I console myself with the knowledge that each edit makes the book better, but that doesn’t make each edit any easier.Poetry plays a prominent role in Beside a Burning Sea. Why did you decide to add this element to your novel?Having lived in Japan, I’ve long had an appreciation for the simple beauty of haikus. Starting each chapter of Beside a Burning Sea with a haiku (written from Akira’s perspective) was fun for me as a writer. I hope readers enjoy these musings. Additionally, I felt that poetry—or a love of such inward exploration—was a thread that could be used to connect Annie and Akira.How much of your success do you attribute to the book club program that you launched with your first novel?Publishing is an extremely competitive industry. A great number of good books exist, but many simply don’t sell. The fact thatBeneath a Marble Sky is available in fifteen languages and is selling briskly throughout much of the world is due in large part to all of the wonderful book clubs that I spoke with. These clubs (as well as individual readers, of course) have been tremendously supportive of me, and have really championed my novel.Are there any other thoughts that you’d like to share with your readers?Simply that I continue to be grateful for their support. DISCUSSION QUESTIONSDiscuss the significance of the title Beside a Burning Sea. Additionally, the original title was The Poet Makers. Which title do you prefer? Why? Did Beside a Burning Sea provide you with a better understanding of World War II? If so, how? Would you consider Beside a Burning Sea an antiwar novel? Who was your favorite character and why? Are you interested in learning more about haikus? Is this a novel that would lend itself well to the silver screen? If so, who would you imagine playing the various characters? Are you more interested in reading a novel set somewhere you haven’t been, or would you prefer a locale that you’re familiar with? What do you think was the biggest challenge that John Shors faced when writing Beside a Burning Sea? Did you connect more with Annie or Isabelle? Why? Of the three main relationships in the novel (Annie and Akira, Isabelle and Joshua, Ratu and Jake), which did you most enjoy? For what reasons? How effective was the character Roger as a villain? What was your favorite scene within Beside a Burning Sea?

Editorial Reviews

?From page one of Beside A Burning Sea, you know you are in the hands of a master storyteller. This novel has the aura of the mythic, the magical, and that which is grounded in history. Shors weaves psychological intrigue by looking at his characters? competing desires: love, revenge, and meaning. Both lyrical and deeply imaginative.? ?Amy Tan, Author of The Joy Luck Club ?Shors? sophomore effort (following Beneath a Marble Sky), set on an island in the South Pacific during three weeks in 1942, features achingly lyrical prose, even in depicting the horrors of war. After a U.S. hospital ship is torpedoed and sunk by the Japanese, a handful of survivors struggle for survival on a remote island. They include the captain and an officer; a Japanese prisoner, Akira, and two ship?s nurses he saved (one of them the captain?s wife); and the ship?s engineer, who saves a Fijian stowaway, Rat u. Akira, a college professor pressed into service, is haunted by what he saw, did, and didn?t do at Nanking. Jake, the engineer, is a black farmer who sees in Ratu the son he never had. Ratu adds a colorful combination of winsome bravado, humor and childish fear; each main character is similarly well-rounded, excepting the single-minded traitor among them, unsuspected by his fellow castaways. Shors pays satisfying attention to class and race dynamics, as well as the tension between wartime enemies. The survivors? dignity, quiet strength and fellowship make this a magical read.? ? Publishers Weekly Praise for Shors? debut BENEATH A MARBLE SKY: ?Jahanara is a beguiling heroine whom readers will come to love; none of today?s chick-lit heroines can match her dignity, fortitude and cunning...Elegant, often lyrical, writing distinguishes this literary fiction from the genre known as historical romance. It is truly a work of art, rare in a debut novel.? The Des Moines Register ?An exceptional work of fiction...A gripping account.? ?India Post ?Agreeably colorful...[with] lively period detail and a surfeit of villains.? ?Kirkus Reviews ?Highly recommended...A thrilling tale [that] will appeal to a wide audience.? ?Library Journal ?An absorbing novel about the extremes of passion?with much relevance for our own time.? ?Rocky Mountain News ?As luminous a jewel as any that adorn the Taj Mahal?s walls.? ? ForeWord