When the Second World War broke out, Ralph MacLean traded his quiet yet troubled life on the Magdalene Islands in eastern Canada for the ravages of the Second World War. On the other side of the country, Mitsue Sakamoto and her family felt their pleasant life in Vancouver starting to fade away after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Ralph found himself one of the many Canadians captured by the Japanese in December 1941. He would live out his war in a prison camp, enduring beatings, starvation, electric feet and a journey in a hell ship to Japan, watching his friends and countrymen die all around him. Mitsue and her family were ordered out of their home and were packed off to a work farm in rural Alberta, leaving many of their possessions behind. By the end of the war, Ralph was broken but survived; the Sakamotos lost everything when the community centre housing their possessions was burned to the ground, and the $25 compensation from the government meant that they had no choice but to start again.
Forgiveness intertwines the compelling stories of Ralph MacLean and the Sakamotos as the war rips their lives and their humanity out of their grasp. But somehow, despite facing such enormous transgressions, the two families learned to forgive. Without the depth of their forgiveness, the author, Mark Sakamoto, would never have existed.