This short book for intermediate level readers is a simple story written in a majestic style that gives the narration the power of myth. I loved it. A boy named Kino tells most of the story even though the story's protagonist is probably his friend, Jiya. Jiya's father is a fisherman. They live in a small village on the Japanese coast. Kino lives on a farm on a terraced mountainside that overlooks the fishing village and the ocean.
The story is simple, but heavy with meaning. Kino's father is often the conduit. When the tsunami strikes, Kino and his father are watching. In the days and weeks that follow, Kino tries to understand what it all means. One memorable thing his father says is about facing death. First, he reminds Kino how much he cried when he was born, how much he feared being born. Then says: "You are only afraid (of death) because you don't know anything about death," his father replied. "But someday you will wonder why you were afraid, even as today you wonder why you feared to be born."
The book was first published, I believe, in 1948, but I am not sure of the story's time period. Their lives are very simple. The children of fishermen become fishermen, the children of farmers become farmers, and there is no social mobility, which is important because a wealthy person offers to raise one of the orphans left by the tsunami and the orphan refuses.
Girls get shortchanged here a little, which surprised me since Buck was a woman. For example, after answering lots of Kino's questions, Kino's father told Kino's sister she was asking too many and sent her to the kitchen. I was a little disappointed none of my students bristled about it. Go figure.