Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Review in a word: Unpolished
Opening line: “Her name that summer was Keiko Armstrong, but it hadn’t been for long.”
Keiko is a Japanese American young woman whose family is interned during World War II after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. The book tells the story of Keiko’s scandalous love for James Armstrong, a love looked down upon because of their different races. But they marry anyway and then James goes off to fight while Keiko and her family, including her twin sister, are interned in California.
Almost 60 years later, James has Alzheimer’s and is living in a nursing home, and Keiko has a stroke and lays in a coma. Her daughter, Kazuko, is taking care of her. A mysterious gentleman shows up, claiming to have known Keiko at the internment camp, bringing to light new questions about Kazuko’s parents.
Despite a really promising first line, and a really promising plot, this book underwhelms. The dialogue was stilted; it felt like I was reading the script for a bad play. There were issues with each of the two narratives:
In Keiko’s narrative, there is simply not enough tension. Everyone makes a big deal about hers and James’s marriage being taboo, and I’m sure it was, but the author didn’t convey the shock or gravity of the situation. During James’s big announcement, the family’s reaction is surprised but ultimately accepting. No relationships ruined. No disastrous consequences. No one in the community horror-struck. There could have been more drama, considering that Keiko’s twin confesses having liked James, but that was happily ignored as well. Like it or not, a good story needs drama and tension.
In Kazuko’s narrative, the mystery is simply not mysterious enough. The man who comes to visit says there are some photos that were taken during the internment, and now they’re missing. Kazuko just has to find these photos. She is so zealous about finding them that even when her mother has another stroke and she’s told that her mother has mere hours to live, she chooses not to head to the hospital but to keep looking for the photos. It just didn’t seem worth all of her effort.
I was really disappointed, because this book had all of the makings of a great story, but it just didn’t deliver. And I feel bad saying that, so here are some links to positive reviews of this book, just to prove that my opinion’s not the only one:
Recommend? Unfortunately, no.
What I’m Reading Next:
The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth
If you like reading about forbidden love, you might like instead:
Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler
If you like reading about World War II, you might like instead:
Margot by Jillian Cantor
I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits