In the face of several grief manuals that have been published this year, Richard Lloyd Parry’s account of the 2011 Japanese tsunami and its aftermath arrives like a ghost at the feast, its mind set not on platitudes, but on the very hardest kind of truth-telling ... This is not, then, a book of easy consolation. It is, as it should be, painful to read. All the same, every time I think of it, I’m filled with wonderment (and, I suppose, professional envy). Lloyd Parry is such a good reporter: discreet yet unsentimental; ever-present, but able also swiftly to absent himself from the page. He never overwrites. His capacity for intimacy with relative strangers is a kind of gift ... It is hard to imagine a more insightful account of mass grief and its terrible processes. This book is a future classic of disaster journalism, up there with John Hersey’s Hiroshima.
...remarkably written and reported ... In a gripping fashion, Parry builds his account around solving the excruciating mystery that haunts the parents of those who were killed...In doing so, he produces a page-turner. In lesser hands, this tactic could seem ghoulish or exploitative — 'an effort to squeeze spooky entertainment out of the tragedy.' But in Parry’s, the material gets assembled into a moving study of character and culture, love and loss, grief and responsibility ... He constructs the book as an exquisite series of nesting boxes of sorrow and compassion ... Reminiscent of John Hersey’s classic Hiroshima, a devastatingly calm and matter-of-fact look at the dropping of the world’s first atomic bomb, Parry recounts this story with a necessary balance of detachment and investment. Significantly, unlike Hersey, Parry was in Japan during the disaster he’s describing, and so he includes the occasional first-person experience in his multilayered account. The result is a spellbinding book that is well worth contemplating in an era marked by climate change and natural disaster.
It's a wrenching chronicle of a disaster that, six years later, still seems incomprehensible ... Any writer could compile a laundry list of the horrors that come in the wake of a disaster; Parry's book is not that. He takes his readers deep into Tohoku, 'a remote, marginal, faintly melancholy place, the symbol of a rural tradition that, for city dwellers, is no more than a folk memory' ... Parry writes about the survivors with sensitivity and a rare kind of empathy; he resists the urge to distance himself from the pain in an attempt at emotional self-preservation. The result is a book that's brutally honest, and at times difficult to read ... Ghosts of the Tsunami is a brilliant chronicle of one of the modern world's worst disasters, but it's also a necessary act of witness. The stories Parry tells are wrenching, and he refuses to mitigate the enormity of the tsunami with false optimism or saccharine feel-good anecdotes. Above all, it's a beautiful meditation on grief.