A lively and surprising novel about a Japanese woman with a closely guarded secret, the American daughter who strives to live up to her mother’s standards, and the rejuvenating power of forgiveness.
How to Be an American Housewife is a novel about mothers and daughters, and the pull of tradition. It tells the story of Shoko, a Japanese woman who married an American GI, and her grown daughter, Sue, a divorced mother whose life as an American housewife hasn’t been what she’d expected. When illness prevents Shoko from traveling to Japan, she asks Sue to go in her place. The trip reveals family secrets that change their lives in dramatic and unforeseen ways. Offering an entertaining glimpse into American and Japanese family lives and their potent aspirations, this is a warm and engaging novel full of unexpected insight.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is my favourite novel I have read in the New Year. Margaret Dilloway has used fiction to explore the experiences of her mother and her Japanese heritage. In doing so, she has created a book that is emotionally engaging,powerfully heartfelt and entertaining.
From the beginning this book captivated me. I wanted to know more about the two alternating stories, one of a Japanese mother and her life before and after moving to America and the other of her daughter and her life growing up in the US.
The author showed the transition of time in this book flawlessly. I was never confused as to which character was recounting their life, nor was there any awkward places where the past and the present met.
I truly felt that I was getting to look inside a culture and a family that I knew little about and that the author put much of herself into these characters. This is not a quickly paced story, but it is even and flows wonderfully from one part of the character’s life to the next.
My favourite part of this story was the relationship between Sue and her Daughter Helena. The daughter is a mature child by the point in which we meet her at age thirteen and the reflections of Sue’s relationship with Shoko and the values she has learned from her are clear during this portion of the story. Fantastic writing, that made me stop and evaluate my own relationship with my children.
A story very much about forgiveness, acceptance and the power of love and the human spirit, this is one that I strongly recommend you check out.