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Cherry Whip Paperback – December 1, 2004
About the Author
Michael Antman is a veteran advertising creative director who spent two and a half years as a cross-cultural trainer in Japan. While living there, he also wrote a weekly magazine column on English business idioms.
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Early in the novel, Hiroshi is struck with a rare impermanent paralyzing sickness in which he is bed bound in a foreign country and needs to relearn all of his basic motor skills. During his punishing rehabilitation he comes to realize that he may never play music again and needs to come to grips with his own personal flaws as his own life tumbles to rock bottom.
The most compelling part in Antman's novel is Hiroshi's journey back to his childhood and his relationship with his sister, Shizuka, in the small Japanese town Ichikawa. As a child in Ichikawa, Hiroshi follows his sister along the Forbidden Pathway and comes to finally comprehend his sister's secret as an adult. Michael Antman's writing style reminds me very much of Mark Salzman and his character's journey through ones self. This is an exceptional novel, well written and inspired by life's surprises
Hiroshi is an accomplished Japanese jazz clarinetist, newly arrived in the Big Apple for his North American debut. But what awaits him, instead, is one catastrophe after another, including a rare and mysterious neurological disorder. Throughout Hiroshi's adventures and misadventures in New York, we see in him the sort of obsessive personality that leads, on the one hand, to his mastery of jazz, and on the other to his fixations with language, familial relations, race cars, food and even home hardware, for heaven sake.
There was a moment in reading Cherry Whip, when I sat back and laughed out loud, marveling at how much this tortured main character and I have in common emotionally. Though I don't know beans about jazz or Japan, I came to believe I understood them better through Hiroshi's eyes and realized just how universal are our fears, misunderstandings and personal demons.
In the course of the story, there are other finely drawn characters, such as my personal favorite, Maureen, a young musician and love interest of Hiroshi's, who both attracts and repels him with her archetypical New York abrasiveness and charm. Hiroshi's enigmatic father makes an appearance, too, as does the ghostly memory of Hiroshi's tortured and very deceased sister.
But don't get the idea that this is a tale that wallows in gloom and angst; through all Hiroshi's misgivings and missteps, Antman delivers a modern parable of the human condition, and one that provides hope for Hiroshi's deliverance, as well as ultimately our own.
The novel is about a young Japanese clarinet player who comes to New York to make it big and ends up hospitalized with GBS. Although Hiroshi deals with the issues of being paralyzed and in a hospital and, therefore, in complete submission to those around him, pretty well, it's his reaction to his physical limitations after being released back into the world where the real evidence of his personality come into play. Without realizing he's doing this, Hiroshi goes through an involved process of convincing himself that he can no longer do the one thing in life he enjoys most, which is playing the clarinet. He doesn't even attempt to pick up the clarinet or to exercise his hands, which would give him the dexterity needed to play. He gives up on living the life he's dreamed of since childhood, and he gives up on himself.
Cherry Whip shows how a person's mind can affect the outcome of one's life, whether dealing with a physical limitation or not, and that when we begin to think positively, good things happen for us. Hiroshi gets himself into sticky situations during the novel, and the fascinating, creative ways he finds of getting out of them entices the reader to want to learn more.