Set between 1939 and 1963, “The Sun Gods” tells the story of Tom Morton, a Seattle pastor and widower, who falls in love with Japanese immigrant Mitsuko Fukai. They marry but their happiness is soon shattered by the attack on Pearl Harbor and Tom’s reaction to it. Years later, his son Bill attempts to discover Tom’s bitterly guarded secrets, a quest that inevitably takes him to Japan.
Jay Rubin’s first novel is, in many ways, exactly what you would expect from an experienced translator of Japanese literature. Some sections of “The Sun Gods” are likely semi-autobiographical — the student struggling with the Japanese language, the American in Japan for the first time — and many of the tropes exploring differences between the West and Japan are trotted out. Fortunately there is a lot more going on.