Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Garden of Stones

Author: Sophie Littlefield
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Kindle ebook from NetGalley
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin
First Line: “San Francisco, Tuesday June 6, 1978 --- Reg Forrest lowered himself painfully into this desk chair, which was as hard, used and creaky as he was.”

Synopsis:  This book begins with the police arriving at the house of Lucy Takeda to question her on the murder of someone she knew decades before.  Lucy's adult daughter, Patty, is taken aback at the police's accusations of her quiet mother.  Against Lucy's wishes Patty decides to find out the truth behind these claims in order to clear her mother's good name. 

The reader learns of Lucy's past through many flashbacks that vividly retell Lucy's tragic past. --- Before WWII, Lucy Takeda was a typical fourteen year old living in Los Angeles.  Lucy enjoyed an easy, upper class life with her parents.  Her father was a successful and respected businessman and her mother Miyako, was known for her beauty. 

Suddenly the bombs were dropped on Pearl Harbour and within a few short weeks Lucy's world begins to crumble.  Her father unexpectedly dies and shortly afterwards Lucy and her mother, Miyako, are rounded up along with thousands of other Japanese-Americans.  They are forced out of their homes, leaving all that they own and are herded into Manzanar Camp.  An internment camp which was quickly and poorly constructed to hold the influx of Japanese-Americans.

The camp places Lucy and her mother in horrible conditions - dilapidated and unsanitary housing, inedible food, intense heat and, worst of all, corruption of those in power.  Unfortunately Miyako, already slightly unstable, soon becomes victim to abuse by those in charge.  Unwilling to allow her daughter to have the same fate Miyako takes drastic and horrific measures to ensure that her daughter doesn't suffer the same fate.

Littlefield uses the points of view of three generations of Japanese-American women to tell a very moving and truly memorable tale of what happened to these citizens before, during and after living in the Japanese camps. 

My Thoughts: There a few items that a book has to have in order for me to love it and for it to stay with me long after I've turned/clicked the last page.  I love to learn something new and I love an emotional story with characters whom I truly care about.  This book has it all ... and then some.

"Garden of Stones" showed me quite clearly that although I had heard about Japanese-Americans being taken to 'special camps' during WWII, I had no idea the extent of their experience.  This book's account is truly eye opening and heart wrenching as it describes how innocent Japanese AMERICANS were treated so horribly solely based on their physical traits.  While the atrocities of Nazi concentration camps from WWII are well-known (and truly heinous) it is sad that the travesty that occurred on American soil is not as well known (at least to this Canadian).

While this book showcases the horrible conditions that the Japanese-Americans were put in, it is also a wonderful testament to how the Japanese people held onto their pride and cherished their culture even through these horrible times.  Honestly, reading about Japanese culture was one of the high points in the book for me.
As I mentioned above, for a story to stay with me it has to evoke some kind of emotion in me.  This book had me on a roller coaster of emotions. 
  • From embarrassment that I knew little to nothing about the Japanese camps. 
  • To anger at the American government for allowing such blatant racial profiling and prejudice of innocent citizens and treating them so horribly.  
  • To helplessness seeing how the Japanese-Americans were treated in Manzanar
  • To the heartache over what Miyako had to resort to in order to protect her only daughter. 
  • To horror at the terrible conditions of the Manzanar camp and the horrible things that went on in the camp.  
  • Happiness at how resilient the human spirit can be
  • and, finally, hope that this kind of mass prejudice never happens again. 
Oh ya, LOTS of emoting goin' on in this book!

If I had to choose something that I didn't love about this book it would have to be the minor plot of the murder that Patty (Lucy's daughter) is trying to solve.  While it did provide an interesting way to begin the book it soon fell by the wayside and I lost interest.  I preferred seeing how Lucy and Miyako dealt with the camps and the aftermath more than finding out who was the murderer of someone who I didn't care about in the least.  Plus, the resolution of the murder at the end of the book felt too quick.

All in all, I truly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Note:  My sincere thanks and appreciate to Harlequin, Ms Littlefield and NetGalley for providing me with this complimentary ebook copy in exchange for my honest review.

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