"Stephens's debut fiction brings to life the heart-wrenching yet beautiful story of a woman growing up and living in Japan through the often horrific era of the 1940s through the 1960s. Inspired by the true story of her husband’s family, Stephens follows Noriko through her childhood, living through the bombing of Hiroshima, and as a young adult with dreams of going to the Takarazuka Theater Academy. When life doesn’t turn out the way she planned, Noriko finds a different happiness, marrying Ichiro, a man she’s deeply in love with, and becoming pregnant with their son, Hisashi, on their honeymoon. While still pregnant, they’re given the devastating news that Ichiro has tuberculosis, and their family’s future becomes desperately insecure.
Through every happy and excruciatingly painful moment, Stephens evokes the emotions of each character with great clarity and power, ensuring readers will feel as though they were experiencing the story themselves. At times almost unbearably intimate, All Sorrows Can Be Borne offers raw, painful insight into the ways that so much of everyday Japanese life in the period was shaped by income level or by being a woman: Noriko must go along with her husband’s plan to send their son to Ichiro’s sister and husband in America to raise him as their own, no matter how devastating the decision, to ensure their son will still have the future they can’t provide.
The novel’s structure reveals that decision early and then doubles back, through Noriko’s life, to explain it. Stephens contextualizes her characters and their choices with references to historical people and events, from Japan and the U.S., illuminating the era and this couple’s heartbreaking lack of freedom—especially Noriko’s. Stephens’s descriptions of the horrors Noriko witnessed in Hiroshima and her fears in later life of the long-term health effects are unforgettable. This moving saga will stun and enthrall readers.
Takeaway: Based on real events, a heartbreaking novel of the steps that lead a mother in 1960’s Japan to give up her son.
Great for fans of: Vanessa Springora’s Consent, Esther Safran Foer’s I Want You To Know We’re Still Here."
Midwest Book Review
Historical Novel Society
"Stephens’ sprawling novel is loaded with details about Japanese culture, postwar history, and the Tenrikyo religion in particular. It also features some
wonderful lines that give readers keen insight into Noriko’s psyche: “Japanese people believe that children up to the age of five can communicate with angels, but can they also communicate with the dead?” she wonders to herself, not long before her son is to depart. The pace of the storytelling is quite leisurely, though, as it methodically moves along a relatively flat story arc. Still, the characters’ perseverance through continual struggle makes for a compelling story of survival of life’s many trials and of one person’s drive to stay true to oneself."
“So many of us have suffered this past year or so. Many of us have had to dig deep within ourselves to learn how to bear sorrows and loss. Many of us have looked to the past for inspiration to get through difficult times. For all these reasons, Loren Stephens’ All Sorrows Can Be Borne has come at the exact right time. Inspired by true events and real people, the story looks at pain and suffering but also the ultimate triumph of love, forgiveness, and compassion. I loved the book.”
—Lisa See, author of The Island of Sea Women and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
“This story is so well-written that [it] really portrays the sorrow Noriko had to bear. The writing of Noriko’s character and how she developed from having a very spoiled and privileged upbringing to all the suffering she had to bear as a mother and then to lose her son was incredibly portrayed. Stephens captured the true essence of love, family and loss in a beautiful way. In this emotionally charged and heartfelt read, Stephens writes about resilience, strength and courage framed within the backdrop of the Japanese culture and important political climate of the time. I highly recommend this powerful novel.”
– @nurse_bookie on Instagram
“All Sorrows Can Be Borne is a harrowing story of love and betrayal, all the more heartbreaking because it is based on family history. Post-war Japan comes alive in these pages, and even the most unforgivable acts make a tragic kind of sense when viewed through the prism of violence that marked every one of the war's survivors. As this tale makes clear, in the wake of such trauma, humans can do the unthinkable, both to and for the ones they love.”
—Aimee Liu, author of Glorious Boy
“This book was so emotional for me. I could not imagine having to face the choices that Noriko is presented, given the Japanese culture. It was so well written and you experience the love, loss, and forgiveness right alongside the characters. I would highly recommend this book.”
– @books_n_yogapants on Instagram
“A beautiful story with beautiful writing. All Sorrows Can Be Borne is a book you don’t want to miss. Captivating writing will make it very difficult to set down this inspiring story. Highly recommended.”
– Jessica Belmont, Book Blogger
“Starting with the heart-wrenching opening chapter of All Sorrows Can be Borne, Loren Stephens weaves a tale of love, family and loss with a page-turning plot. Both harrowing and tender, this generous and emotional novel pulls you into a story of character and place that’s hard to put down. This is a beautiful book.”
—Barbara Abercrombie, author of The Language of Loss
“This was a beautifully written piece of historical fiction that I haven’t experienced before, and knowing it was based on a true story made it so much more impactful.” – @suethebookie on Instagram
“The writing is so beautiful and has transported me to Japan in the 1940s and beyond.”
– @booked.and.loving.it on Instagram
Loren recently appeared as a guest on the Born to Talk with Marsha Wietecha radio show talking about the release of her debut novel All Sorrows Can Be Borne.
Released May 4, 2021.
Woman Writers, Woman Books literary magazine features a fictionalized interview between Loren Stephens and Noriko, the heroine of All Sorrows Can Be Borne. A nifty way to get to know the novel’s backstory.
May 11, 2021.
Loren Stephens recently appeared as a guest on the podcast New Books Network speaking about her novel, All Sorrows Can Be Borne, and about the differences between ghostwriting and novel writing.
May 11, 2021.