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Biography & Autobiography Personal Memoirs


by (author) Mark Sakamoto

Initial publish date
May 2015
Personal Memoirs
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jun 2014
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2014
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2015
    List Price

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WINNER of CBC Canada Reads

Finalist for the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction and the OLA Evergreen Award

#1 National Bestseller


When the Second World War broke out, Ralph MacLean chose to escape his troubled life on the Magdalen Islands in eastern Canada and volunteer to serve his country overseas. Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Mitsue Sakamoto saw her family and her stable community torn apart after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Like many young Canadian soldiers, Ralph was captured by the Japanese army. He would spend the war in prison camps, enduring pestilence, beatings and starvation, as well as a journey by hell ship to Japan to perform slave labour, while around him his friends and countrymen perished. Back in Canada, Mitsue and her family were expelled from their home by the government and forced to spend years eking out an existence in rural Alberta, working other people's land for a dollar a day.

By the end of the war, Ralph emerged broken but a survivor. Mitsue, worn down by years of back-breaking labour, had to start all over again in Medicine Hat, Alberta. A generation later, at a high school dance, Ralph's daughter and Mitsue's son fell in love.

Although the war toyed with Ralph's and Mitsue's lives and threatened to erase their humanity, these two brave individuals somehow surmounted enormous transgressions and learned to forgive. Without this forgiveness, their grandson Mark Sakamoto would never have come to be.

About the author

MARK SAKAMOTO, a lawyer by training, has enjoyed a rich and varied career. He began his professional career in live music, working with international acts such as Shania Twain and Tim McGraw. Since law school, Mark has worked at a national law firm and a national broadcaster-the CBC-and has also cut his teeth in politics as a senior advisor. He is currently an executive at an international software company and sits on the Premier of Ontario's media development advisory board. Sakamoto lives in Toronto with his wife and two children.

Mark Sakamoto's profile page


  • Unknown, CBC Canada Reads
  • Unknown, OLA Evergreen Award
  • Unknown, Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction

Editorial Reviews

“This book shares many examples of powerful life lessons that inspire us to embrace change as a gift from learning, and remind us that making peace with our past is possible if we hold on to what we’ve learned from our experiences.”

Shania Twain

“Mark Sakamoto’s family story shows how individuals—the author’s Canadian grandfather, a POW of the Japanese, and his Japanese-Canadian grandmother, sent to a work camp in Alberta—ultimately make their own history. This is a quintessential Canadian story, where family history is not forgotten but does not imprison its participants.”

Nathan M. Greenfield, author of <em>The Damned</em>

“Through stories of starvation and suffering, outright racism and imprisonment, Sakamoto offers a distinct and dark vantage point to Canadian history--one that does away with any geopolitical binaries of good and evil.”

<em>The Globe and Mail</em>

“Poignantly elegant.”


“Extraordinary and touching.”

<em>Elle Canada</em>

“An unforgettable story about the power of forgiveness, set against one of the darkest periods in Canada’s history. Mark Sakamoto tells his family’s story with grace and at times brutal honesty. Painful and poignant, Forgiveness is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.”

Mellissa Fung, author of <em>Under an Afghan Sky</em>

“It’s a violent world we live in, but Mark Sakamoto’s Forgiveness: A Gift From My Grandparents reminds us that things do change.”

<em>National Post</em>

“This is an astonishing book . . . a funny, heartbreaking story of a family scarred by history’s pain and their own self-destructiveness, yet redeemed by stoic endurance and the capacity for forgiveness. You’re going to remember this book.”

Michael Ignatieff

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