A book that bites off more than it can chew. Sofia Ghori Saleem
Time Happeneth to Them All begins with three quotes: one on the universality of time, the second related to race and the last on the simultaneous capacity for love and hate. Picking up on one of the above themes, the story interlaces deeply entrenched problems in Japanese society with the universally pervading issue of race.
The story spans two continents — Japan and the U.S. — and centres on the legacy left behind by Kato Keikichi, a household name in Japan, well known as a wealthy businessman and philanthropist.
Kato’s rise to wealth and fame is inextricably linked with the murky underworld of crime. A class A war criminal who made his money running brothels and popularising horse racing in Japan, Kato’s attempts to influence the conferment of the Nobel Peace Prize by showcasing the philanthropic activities of his wealthy organisation.
The protagonist, Linda Hara, is an American journalist in Japan who is a whistle blower in Kato’s many furtive endeavours. Interestingly enough, she has also adopted the child that Kato incestuously fathered on his daughter.
The story cuts to Chicago where Linda attempts to raise her adopted daughter, Naomi while getting ready to release her controversial book on racism to the American public.
The pace and flow of the book is stilted at best. Many pages are preachy and lecturing, such as the lengthy diatribe on the Hubble telescope and rambling descriptions on Galileo, Kepler, Tyco and geocentrism. The book hinges on the notion that race is still a hot button issue which can take the world by storm.
Linda’s style seems to be to win over adversity by opening up her home and hearth to one and all. Among the medley of house guests are Toyo, the estranged son of Kato; Jake, a reporter, and his two Japanese daughters; and finally Sonya, Linda’s Yakuza friend from the Japanese mafia, and his three daughters.
Grammatical errors abound. The book is littered with sentences such as “Naked from the waste up”, “As she stood their digesting the contents”, and “The place is a dangerous”. There are also spelling errors such as “Bosporus”.
Some of the sentence constructions are gauche and tedious “… she was in no mood to appreciate the weather instead mulling over her need for bodyguards…”
Linda continues to demonstrate that she has a heart of gold by cooking lavish Japanese dinners for nearly a dozen people, organising violin lessons, being mom to Naomi, while also writing a book and setting up a centre for the eradication of racism.
War does not desensitise her to human suffering. She reaches out and develops a close bond with Sonya’s family and teaches his wife English, while taking his children to the zoo, when Sonya is in prison.
Her overarching ambition seems to be to work for the eradication of racism. There are many discussions on the origins and definitions of race such as “Race is not a scientific notion but a sociological pathology.” However, there are no quantifiable metrics defined to help in the eradication of racism.
Linda continues to fearlessly take on the Japanese underworld, while playing the good Samaritan. I will stop short of calling her a “naïve right wing do-gooder”, a description by her friend and houseguest Jake in his Sunday Times article.
And this without being invited to her house for a hot steamy Japanese meal and lessons on the violin.