A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding
Genre: Historical Fiction
Summary (from Goodreads): In the tradition of Memoirs of a Geisha and The Piano Teacher, a heart-wrenching debut novel of family, forgiveness, and the exquisite pain of love
When Amaterasu Takahashi opens the door of her Philadelphia home to a badly scarred man claiming to be her grandson, she doesn’t believe him. Her grandson and her daughter, Yuko, perished nearly forty years ago during the bombing of Nagasaki. But the man carries with him a collection of sealed private letters that open a Pandora’s Box of family secrets Ama had sworn to leave behind when she fled Japan. She is forced to confront her memories of the years before the war: of the daughter she tried too hard to protect and the love affair that would drive them apart, and even further back, to the long, sake-pouring nights at a hostess bar where Ama first learned that a soft heart was a dangerous thing. Will Ama allow herself to believe in a miracle?
Review: An interesting twist on a World War II historical fiction novel....
Written from the perspective of Amaterasu, a Japanese woman living in Philadelphia in the 1980s, this novel delves into the emotions of one survivor of the bombing of Nagasaki. Amaterasu reflects on her complicated relationship with her daughter, who perished during the attack, and revisits secrets that were kept in the days leading up to the bombing. The possible discovery of her missing grandson is almost secondary to the letters she reads from her daughter's lover. Exquisite depictions of life in Japan in the early 20th century are intermingled with realistic descriptions of emotional turmoil. A well-written and thought-provoking novel.
Rating: 4 stars