Ruth is the other protagonist. This part of the story is a little more familiar for Western audiences despite that Ruth is a protagonist of color. Also of Japanese heritage, she takes a special interest in Nao's diary after it washes up on the shores of her local beach in Canada along with other items from Japan. The assumption around town is that these items were washed away in the tsunami that had hit Japan in 2011. More than anything else that has washed up though, this diary and the few things with it are more personal to Ruth. Her character arc and spiritual journey is just as pronounced as Nao's as she searches for what may have happened to Nao.
For me, Nao's journey is by far the more interesting one. She goes through so much and her family had been through so much. There's also a magnificent shifting of perspective and the way they know and see each other. Its a multigenerational kind of story that has several beautiful layers but also several horrific and triggering scenes. Some triggers to expect in this book are suicide and suicidal thoughts, rape, bullying, depression, and child prostitution.
With triggers like that, I was also surprised to find the rather perfect way it resolved. There's some magical realism that comes into play, but it had been there from the beginning too. And perfect does not mean that life goes on as if nothing ever happened, quite the contrary. There are still mysteries left to the story too, but these are the kind if mysteries that are true to life. Sometimes we just don't get to know about some things we are looking for. I rather liked that.
Altogether, it's one of my favorite books this year.