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?
There is no way my review will do justice for this book! Before I started reading, I read a few reviews, which said the ending would make you cry. Well, for me, I had a lot of moments where I cried or my eyes filled up with tears. This novel is incredibly moving. It took me longer to read this though, because the subject was very depressing. I learnt a lot through this novel. I didn't know much about Nagasaki, and I also didn't know how the bomb really effected the people there.
I loved how each chapter started with a word from a Japanese to English dictionary! I loved the main character, Amaterasu, even at times when I didn't agree with something she had done. Even though she was a fictional character, she seemed extremely real to me. I loved the other characters too, but I really connected with Amaterasu.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received this book from Penguin's First to Read program (http://www.firsttoread.com/) in return for an honest review.
Jackie Copleton studied English at Cambridge University before teaching in Japan for three years. She has worked in local, regional and national newspapers in the UK and abroad. A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding is her first book and is inspired by her time living in Nagasaki.