(Review) Please Enjoy Your Happiness by Paul Brinkley-Rogers
Source: Free copy from Touchstone.
Rating: Very good.
Paul Brinkley-Rogers is a Pulitzer-prize winning war correspondent. He covered the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia as a journalist. He has worked for Newsweek and The Miami Herald.
Please Enjoy Your Happiness is a memoir of a young man who was in a remarkable relationship with an older Japanese woman. The time period was 1959. The place was the port city of Yokosuka, Japan. He was in the U S Navy. She worked as a hostess in a bar. She noticed him sitting alone and reading. She loved poetry and this was the first step in their relationship. They had a kindred love of art and literature.
Paul Brinkley-Rogers is the young man. Kaji Yukiko was the Japanese woman. For Paul, this was a period in time where he had a life changing and memorable relationship. The relationship was brief. The story is a personal examination of that time. And, Paul states that this relationship has continued (for him) despite a separation of 58 years. Letters are included. In addition, the society and culture of Japan in 1959 is examined.
I have so many thoughts about this book. I believe it is because of my age and life experiences. I am 53. I have found that as a person becomes older the past is examined closely. There is something about becoming older that makes a person reflect and process the life we’ve lived. Some people (including me) ponder things. We have a sensitive perspective. And then again, there are some people who do not examine the past. They live in the moment. Reflecting on the past is more than thinking about regrets. Other things are studied. For example, am I a mature person compared to who I was ten years ago? For Paul Brinkley-Rogers, this period in his life was tantamount; it was a pivotal point, that changed the course of life.
Several points to consider in this story:
1. Their relationship was brief. It did not continue and show the wear and tear of arguments, disagreements, and the everyday struggles of a couple.
2. They had an intimacy that many long-term couples never have. I want to mention that intimacy does not mean sex. Intimacy means two people who have a deep trust for one another. They have shared the real people behind the flesh.
3. Paul reflects back and understands so much more than he did at age 19-20. Don’t we all understand things a bit better when we are older?
4. Paul is thankful he has this good memory, because he also has painful memories. But, Kaji is his happy place. She is his delightful joy. I bet there are people who have had many relationships who cannot say they had a deep relationship like Paul and Kaji?
I believe some readers will not “get” this story. In order to understand Paul’s memoir, a little life needs to have been lived. Notice I said life and not age. Some people have had heavy life experiences when they are still young.
I loved this story for several reasons:
1. Paul Brinkley-Rogers unpacks his suitcase so to speak, about a great love during his youth. It is interesting to read about the progressing relationship, as well as his mature reflections on this period.
2. I have clarity about Japan’s culture and society post World War II.
3. I have clarity about Japanese women post World War II.
4. I loved reading about two people who by chance meet, and the relationship changes their lives.
5. An additional tweak to the story is Paul was born in England. His perspective on America brought a different viewpoint. Especially in reference to racism.
6. The letters that are included from Kaji are important. I was able to hear her voice.