Book Review by Aarene Storms: Last Leaves Falling

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell

18-year-old Abe Sora lives in modern-day Kyoto with his mom ... and with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). He is dying, and he's scared.

Sora derives some comfort from a book of haiku poems written by ancient samurai warriors, but is helped even more by the love of his mom, his grandparents, and new friends Mai and Kaito, whom he met online.

As Sora's body fails him, he must face the knowledge that, as much as he longs to face his future with dignity, soon he will have no control over his life or death. He makes a plan, and he asks Mai and Kaito to help.

The sparse language of the story is perfectly suited to the character of Sora and his love of both haiku poetry and Hayao Miyazaki's animated movies.

Neither of these forms wastes time or syllables to explain a situation, but rather depends on the intuition of the reader / viewer. So it is with Last Leaves, in which characters meet online and form a strong friendship (and possibly a romance between Mai and Kaito!) without a bunch of exposition from the author.

Sora's end-of-life choices may be distressing to some readers and objectionable to others. However, the grace of the telling is undeniable. This is an excellent book for discussion.

The events may not have happened; still, the story is true.  --R. Silvern

Aarene Storms, youth services librarian
Richmond Beach and Lake Forest Park Libraries, KCLS


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