From Publishers Weekly
In this enchanting first novel, Dilloway mines her own family's history to produce the story of Japanese war bride Shoko, her American daughter, Sue, and their challenging relationship. Following the end of WWII, Japanese shop girl Shoko realizes that her best chance for a future is with an American husband, a decision that causes a decades-long rift with her only brother, Taro. While Shoko blossoms in America with her Mormon husband, GI Charlie Morgan, and their two children, she's constantly reminded that she's an outsider--reinforced by passages from the fictional handbook How to Be an American Housewife. Shoko's attempts to become the perfect American wife hide a secret regarding her son, Mike, and lead her to impossible expectations for Sue. The strained mother-daughter bond begins to shift, however, when a now-grown Sue and her teenage daughter agree to go to Japan in place of Shoko, recently fallen ill, to reunite with Taro. Dilloway splits her narrative gracefully between mother and daughter (giving Shoko the first half, Sue the second), making a beautifully realized whole.
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Shoko was a young woman in Japan during WWII. Once her parents realized that Japan was going to be defeated, they encouraged Shoko to marry an American and obtain a better life. She did so at the expense of her relationship with her brother, Taso, who could not forgive her for betraying her country. Jumping ahead many years, it’s clear that Shoko has done what she could to be the best American housewife. She now longs to return to Japan and reunite with Taso, but she is too ill to travel. She enlists the help of her daughter, Sue, whose own failings as a housewife have caused a rift between the women. Despite their strained relationship, Sue makes the trip and discovers another side to her mother, and family secrets that have come between them. Dilloway narrates from both women’s perspectives, sensitively dramatizing the difficulties and struggles Shoko and Sue faced in being Japanese, American, and housewives. --Carolyn Kubisz