After Japan attacks Pearl Harbor and the US enters the war, US Army nurse Louise Harrison flees into the mountains of Manila to wait for US reinforcements or rescue. She begins an unlikely friendship with Japanese soldier Sammy Mori, who is being hunted as a traitor by his own military. They must learn to trust and rely on each other if either of them hope to survive the war.
The Year of Counting Souls positions itself as an emotional tale of friendship and the shared human experience, but it’s mostly just a plot-driven survival story with inauthentic themes.
The supposedly main character, Louise, is hardly present for the first third of the novel. When she is in the scene, she barely exists outside of the trope of “female nurse brings shred of humanity to the violence of war.” Her role is basically that she sits around while men drive the plot, and the author can point to her and say, hey look, a woman in my novel.
The male characters aren’t much more genuine. There’s the kind older doctor, the violent and arrogant military man, and the conflicted but ultimately good enemy. They’re never shown to be anything but those stock character types. The novel tries to be a deep comment on the importance of all human life and our shared human experiences, but it’s obvious and feels both unoriginal and disingenuous.
I’ll admit I read about half of this novel and did not finish. I’ve read more than a few narratives like this recently and had little energy to finish the book.