Sora Abel is only 17 years old yet he is dying from ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) which is usually an old-person-disease. He lives with his mom in modern Japan. Since being asked not to return to school, he has been very isolated. He doesn't even want to go outside since he will see pity in the eyes of people he encounters. So he reads and he spends time on the Internet. One day he happens upon a teen chat room and makes two virtual friends, Mai and Kaito. They eventually meet in person and their friendship helps Sora immensely. A samurai poetry book his therapist loaned him also helps. In it he finds solace. The length of life is not important. It is what one does with his life that is important. Sora decides he wants to die with dignity and on his own terms.
I cannot mourn, for I have lived
of mountain air and cherry blossoms, steel,
Even before starting this book I knew that Sora would die, there are no magical cures for people with ALS. What I wasn't expecting was a book about friendship, Japanese culture, and the beauty of nature. My favorite bits, beside the poetry, were the cultural references. Sora and his friends eat squid ink ice cream. He and his grandparents select a cat to protect the house from a bakeneko, a shape-shifting-monster-cat. And, of course, the references to samurai culture. Sora's death is with dignity, full of love and friendship. It is very touching.
The Last Leaves Falling is a smart selection for library collections, especially those wanting to beef up their books about other cultures.
Here is my attempt at a haiku to describe the book:
The Last Leaves Falling
very touching book includes
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
30 books Summer Reading Challenge
20 / 30 books. 66.66% done!