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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Japanese-American Internment Novel Heartbreaking, Thought-Provoking

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Before Pearl Harbor is bombed in 1942, the Takeda family is living in Los Angeles and doing very well for themselves.  Afterward, they start receiving the same distrustful sideways glances as every other Japanese-American in the U.S.  It's not long before suspicion turns into paranoia.  The Takedas, along with many of their friends and neighbors, are rounded up and forced into an internment camp.  With her father recently dead, 14-year-old Lucy and her mother have to fend for themselves in a place that is fraught with danger, corruption, and desperation.  Lucy's mom will do whatever she has to in order to keep herself and her daughter safe—including unspeakable acts that will have long-reaching consequences for them both.

Decades later, a murder in San Francisco leads police to Lucy.  As the investigation heats up, Lucy tells the harrowing, heartbreaking story of what really happened in Manzanar to her own daughter in an effort to clear her name and unburden her soul.

Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield is a thought-provoking story set during a shameful period of America's past.  I thought it would be more of a mystery than a historical drama—it's both, but with a heavier emphasis on the latter.  Littlefield's descriptions of life inside Manzanar are heartbreaking and barely believable, although they're based on indignities suffered in real life by real Americans.  Obviously, a story set in an internment camp during World War II is not going to be a happy one.  Garden of Stones is, not surprisingly, sad and depressing, a tale full of despairing people struggling through awful situations.  It is, however, also interesting and compelling.  The middle sags and the ending leaves some annoying loose ends, so overall, I didn't love this book.  It held my interest, though, and I liked it well enough to finish the novel and think about it quite a bit afterward.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other novels about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, such as The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner, Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill, Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban, Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman, and Red Sky Over Hawaii by Sara Ackerman)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a couple F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, mild sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a digital copy of Garden of Stones with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

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