Forgiveness: A Gift from My Grandparents – Mark Sakamoto

“But I realized now that forgiveness is not a transaction. It is not an exchange. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the past.”

The age-old adage “forgive and forget” means different things to different people. Some argue that we must never forget. However, most agree that to be able to move forward, we must forgive. That is what Mark Sakamoto sets out to do in his debut novel.

Sakamoto’s book is a memoir that expertly weaves together the past and present stories of his family to show how the past does not dictate their future.

Sakamoto’s grandfather, Ralph MacLean, joined the military at a young age to serve his country during the Second World War. While deployed in Hong Kong, Ralph experienced the horrors of war, as their detachment was quickly overrun, and he became a prisoner of war.

His grandmother, Mitsue Sakamoto, was born in British Columbia, Canada, to a fishing family. Their tight-knit Japanese community was thrown into upheaval when the Japanese army struck Pearl Harbour. Already facing a lot of anti-Japanese sentiment due to their success in the fishing industry, Mitsue’s family was one of many Japanese families targeted by their own government’s racist policies of dispossession and internment.

Although their stories are marked by tragedy, tragedy does not define them. Sakamoto tells the story of his grandparents to remind us that, at times, to forgive someone else, we must first forgive ourselves. And although we must not or cannot forget, we also cannot change what has passed. Forgiveness allows us to take control and to move on.

We really enjoyed this book. We were reminded of the brutality of war, the Canadian government’s unjust treatment of Japanese people in Canada, and the palpable hostility of wartime. However, and most importantly, we were reminded of the boundlessness of love. The author stands as a testament to this sentiment.  

For more book recommendations, check out our 2020 Book of the Year!