Friday, November 16, 2012

Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield

I think in history class, the World War Two narratives were pretty straightforward  the Nazi's were all bad (although there was Sophie, who spoke out against them and was killed for it) and the Japanese were all bad. We don't really hear about people like Sophie or Sugihara, who did some truly commendable things. Likewise, we don't hear about things like how the Americans used Japanese body parts to make, ugh, objects (I refuse to list). Or about the concentration-camp-like places that loyal Japanese-Americans were sent to just because of their origin.

Apart from Weedflower by Cyntha Kadohata, this is one of those rare books that deal with the Japanese-American experience during World War II. Using a dual-narrative structure, it tells the tale of life just before, during and a little after the concentration camps (of Lucy and her mother), and the murder of a former worker of said camp (dealing with Lucy and her daughter Patty).

The camp was horrible. Keeping in mind that these are patriotic Americans, the way they were treated was just terrible. Apart from terrible living conditions, they had to deal with sexual harrassment and obvious prejudice from the White people. I know this is a novel, but I'm pretty sure it's based on real life.

Really, this is a haunting story. The story of Lucy and her mother is obviously the main tale, and it's very well-told. The book flowed and I really couldn't put it down. In fact, what broke the flow was, ironically, the secondary plot.

The secondary plot is a sort of murder mystery, that is supposed to wrap up the events that happened so long ago. The only problem is that there were leaps that I couldn't follow, which got me confused. Plus, when compared to the power of the camp-narrative, it just lost a lot of attraction.

Character-wise, I felt a connection with Lucy much more than Patty. Lucy loved much and lost much, but Patty is just cruising in life. Yes, she does a lot to defend her mother, but she doesn't change that much during the book. She doesn't find out the true circumstances of her birth, and I expected her to come to a conclusion about her fiance in the book. I don't think she loved him (it didn't show), but she still got married to him. I guess they are a happy couple from the start, but it's not very obvious, and without any events, I can't see anything (what I thought was a conflict turned out to be a non-event).

But, this is an excellent book. It's a really good look at the infamous war, from a very different perspective.

Disclaimer: I got a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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