**I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**
Simon is a professional photographer whose pictures have gotten him noticed internationally, and he finds himself in Japan to work on a project taking pictures of the traditional. It is on this business trip that Simon first meets Hiroko. He's lost, struggling to figure out the subway system in a country where he can barely speak the language, and Hiroko is the angel who steps in to help him find his way.
Their brief meeting at the train station is just the beginning. Simon is enchanted, but with only the girl's first name to go on he has little to go on to find her again. So he sets up a plan, going to the same place every day holding up a sign, desperately seeking the girl who has stolen his heart. And, of course, they find each other.
But this is where the story takes it's tragic twist. Simon is from a wealthy American family, American traditionalists (if you can call them that) and a family that had family members die during WWII. Hiroko's family is no different, with her father still hating the country that set the atomic bomb on his. As the two star crossed lovers fall deeper in love their families want nothing more than to see them torn apart. Then Hiroko's father comes up with a plan. Let the lovers spend some time in the other culture alone, let them experience that hate on their own, and see if their love would survive. As the two go their separate ways they find out they have a bond that can travel across an ocean, but it won't be enough.
In this unique tribute to the Shakespearean classic "Romeo and Juliet" Hancu takes the aftermath from one of the worst wars in history and creates two rival families that would rival the Montagues and Capulets without going to any of those re-imagined stand bys (like rival street gangs). Hancu also does a good job of blending the traditional Japanese culture with the less traditional Western one that makes for an interesting contrast. The language throughout the novel isn't always smooth though, and I'm not sure if this comes from a language difference or a desire to sound more literary than needed. Sometimes a character's narration sounded unnatural or forced (like a Yakuza boss insulting someone by calling them a "fuddle head") and it was difficult to understand what style Hancu was trying for here. The two main conflicts in the plot (I don't want to say too much and give away the ending) also seemed a little forced and simply there so the plot could come to its planned ending.
While there did seem to be some flaws with some of the characters (Simon's parents are as flat as can be and Hiroko's father is not far behind) Hancu creates two vibrant main characters with a believable relationship. The contrast of traditional and modern culture makes for a unique background just as vibrant as the two main characters and makes this book a compelling read even if there are sections that slow it down. I would have liked to see the secondary characters developed a little more, but even in the original "Romeo and Juliet" the side characters leave a lot to be desired in terms of growth and development. With a unique concept that has been executed well make this book one that I would recommend, especially to anyone with a love of Japanese culture.