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Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey Hardcover – January 19, 2015

4.6 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“An intriguing… travelogue through a landscape of Japanese spiritual belief, with forays into history, folklore, and memoir. [Mockett] has the ability, fully available only to those on the margins, “to see through more than one set of eyes, if one learns to pay attention to one’s environment.” It is this gift of double-sightedness, of bringing to bear both the “dry” rationality of the West and the “sticky” sensibilities professed by the Japanese, that makes this the most interesting book so far to have come out of the disaster.” (Richard Lloyd Parry - New York Times Book Review)

“Marie Mockett has taken the most spectacular catastrophe of our era and used it to teach us astonishing things about faith, perseverance, and the mysteries of the soul. Her journey through personal grief and the devastation of Japan after the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster brings us into a sacred space. With this book, Marie Mockett brought me into the high drama of the tsunami, through her most personal landscape, and into the awe of the eternal.” (Luis Alberto Urrea, Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Devil's Highway)

“Richly layered in culture and insight, Mockett takes us on a compelling and illuminating journey of the heart and soul.” (Gail Tsukiyama, author of A Hundred Flowers)

“This book speaks to my heart. Grief is part of what it means to be human, and Marie Mutsuki Mockett's book models an approach to grief, an attitude of courage, curiosity, and inquiry that is our birthright, as humans, wherever we happen to be born. Read it. You will be uplifted.” (Ruth Ozeki, Zen priest, author of A Tale for the Time Being)

“A beautiful tale that is part evocative travelogue and part lyrical meditation on grief, this soulful and haunting book made me cry in a way I like to cry when reading a good book. Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye will resonate with anyone who has lost a loved one, a homeland, or a home and hoped for healing on the other side.” (Heidi W. Durrow, New York Times best-selling author of The Girl Who Fell from the Sky)

“What a remarkable and moving book about traveling from one land to another, and learning different ways of coming to terms with death amid life. Engrossing and powerful, it speaks volumes about the many ways people grieve and live.” (Will Schwalbe, author of the New York Times bestseller The End of Your Life Book Club)

“A poignant spiritual journey through Japan… Touching on themes of modernity and tradition, Mockett takes part in various religious customs to come to terms with her grief and understand her mixed-cultural heritage.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Mockett is the perfect translator for the ways East and West frequently miss each other, and these observations are one of the book’s many pleasures… a fascinating, wide-reaching exploration of the religious and cultural elements of this island nation.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“This affecting memoir… effectively evokes the beauty of Japanese culture and the sorrow that swept the country in the tsunami’s wake.” (San Jose Mercury News)

“Mockett skillfully knits together a portrait of loss and recovery, pulling together many individuals’ experience of grief into a collective search for peace.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“An illuminating journey into grief and Japanese culture, a place that few would dare to venture.” (The Japan Times)

“Mockett’s involving and revelatory chronicle of Japanese spirituality in a time of crisis greatly enriches our perceptions of both a unique culture and the human longing for connection with the dead.” (Booklist)

“Mockett… is an observant and respectful guide to Japanese customs, open to new experiences and sensitive to changes in the culture.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“This illuminating journey through loss, faith, and perseverance… gives the reader a rare view into one of the richest death cultures in the world.” (Library Journal, Starred review)

“Depicts a Japan both secular and spiritual, and a people whose apparent stoicism can be a bulwark against chaos.” (Christian Science Monitor)

About the Author

Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s novel Picking Bones from Ash was shortlisted for the 2010 Saroyan Prize and the Asian American Literary Awards for Fiction and was a finalist for the Paterson Prize. She has written for the New York Times, Salon, National Geographic, and other publications. She lives in San Francisco.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (January 19, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393063011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393063011
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #257,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A beautiful and haunting memoir of a Japanese-American woman coming to terms with deep personal tragedy in the wake of the 2011 Japanese tsunami disaster.

Within a brief span of time, Marie Mutsuki Mockett suffers the unexpected losses of her American father and her maternal Japanese grandparents then is struck by the news of the Fukushima tsunami disaster devastating the home region of her Japanese family. Mockett traveled frequently to this area from early childhood and throughout her life coming to know and love it, so she fears not only for her family’s safety but for an entire way of life. She worries that it will be impossible for her to pass along to her young son the rich cultural heritage that her mother had passed down to her. It is with all of this weighing on her mind and spirit that Mockett courageously decides to head to Japan to confront her grief directly in the hopes of finding true wisdom from Buddhism, Shintoism, ancient Japanese rituals, or simply the collective grieving of the Japanese themselves. What follows is a moving journey of pilgrimages to Buddhist temples of various sects and a myriad of spiritual locations while encountering an extraordinary cast of characters along the way from eccentric monks to blind female mediums (otaku) who connect the grieving to the dead.

It is clear throughout that we are being guided on our journey by a brilliant writer. Mockett’s writing style is nuanced and lyrical while always remaining unpretentious, never overcomplicated with any unnecessary clutter. There is a Zen-like elegant beauty in the simplicity at work here befitting the Japanese culture and landscapes through which Mockett leads us.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Not knowing much about the book other than it was about grief and Zen Buddhism, and nothing at all about the author, I went to a reading of it. Mockett read an excerpt, and I found that my fears of New Age-ism and "Eat, Pray, Love" fetishization and egotism were totally unfounded. This is much more than just a memoir; it's a history book, a book on Japanese culture, and on religion as well. Mockett does an incredible job of providing the necessary context for her experiences, (historical, cultural, and personal), seamlessly weaving in her own valuable insights that never judge or recoil from her encounters; it's a work that humanizes rather than objectifies Japanese culture, which I found refreshing. You could say she has no other choice; many of the people she writes about aren't strangers, they're her relatives, family friends, and co-workers.

Surprisingly (to me), a great deal of the book focuses on Buddhism in all its variations in Japan. I was struck by the many perceptive thoughts the author had on meditation and specifically, Zen, (not least of which because I, too, have had eerily similar thoughts and experiences, both in personal practice and academic study of Buddhism, and had thought I was completely alone in them). These were deep insights, worded concisely, simply, on the transformative effects of practicing meditation and ritual that serious practitioners will recognize as a product of great sincerity and thoughtfulness. There's also a total absence of the trendiness of injecting "mindful" rhetoric into her writing, for which I was very grateful. There's far too much writing on Buddhist meditation in the West that loves to abstract to the extreme the usefulness of such a practice.
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I received this book for free through Goodreads Fist Reads

After her Grandfathers death, the author who is ½ Japanese and whose family owns a Buddhist Temple just 25 miles from the Fukushima Daiich nuclear plant, decides to go back to visit after the earthquake and tsunami that took many lives on March 11, 2011. The plant which was damaged in the tsunami as well, started to leaked radiation causing the area to become an unsafe place for people to return. Not having been able to bury her Grandfathers bones at the time of his death, she had to wait for a time where they could once again dig in the soil. The author was also still morning the death of her father who had died three years earlier, so she decides to study how the Japanese deal with grief , which she hopes will help her with hers as well. From visiting different Obon Ceremonies (The Festival of Souls is a Buddhist celebration. The Japanese believe that during this period the souls of their ancestors return to their homes on earth. This is the time when people can guide and help their ancestors' spirits to find peace.) to experiencing many different Buddhist ceremonies, and rituals. From the many Temples and their priest that she talks to, and how each of them is helping their community deal with their grief. This book delves into the history of japan and Buddhism, its traditions,religion, folklore and the respect the people have for these traditions.
I love Buddhas and have them all through my house, but I now see that I do not really know that much about Buddhism, from Zen, Pure Land to Shingon, it was a fascinating look into its history and what it stands for.
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