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Love in Translation: A Novel Paperback – November 24, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; First Edition edition (November 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312372663
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312372668
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,327,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tokunaga (Midori by Moonlight) proves her ability to describe Japanese culture in absorbing detail, though she's less adept at bringing her characters to life. After aspiring San Jose singer Celeste Duncan learns her aunt Michiko has died and left her possessions to her long-lost sister, Hiromi, Celeste dumps her dud boyfriend and relocates to Tokyo to find Hiromi and, hopefully, the identity of her own father. Her quest introduces her to a bustling Tokyo, and the staples of its pop culture are explored as Celeste bounces from experience to experience—commuting as contact sport, romance with a Japanese man, karaoke and her participation in a music competition show. While it's easy to see why Celeste would be taken with Tokyo, it's less clear why readers should be taken with Celeste, who comes across less a convincing lead than a tour guide. (Dec.)
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From Booklist

Living in sleepy San Jose with her overly critical boyfriend and working a dull job at a technical document company, Celeste Duncan is stuck in a rut. With that said, it feels like fate when she receives a box of family heirlooms from an aunt who recently passed. As a result of her mother’s early death and an absent father, Celeste impulsively decides to travel to Japan to find a relative who may be able to help her piece together her father’s whereabouts. As Celeste maneuvers along the cultural divide, she manages to pick up a few Japanese words, develop an intense crush on her homestay brother, and enter an American Idol–like singing contest in hopes of broadcasting her search for her relative. The cultural misunderstandings and mispronunciations are good for a laugh even as Celeste takes the brunt of the jokes. Our heroine is goofy, awkward, and clumsy in comparison to her Japanese counterparts, yet always lovable and good-natured. Tokunaga’s knowledge of and appreciation for Japanese culture shines through in this charmingly entertaining read. --Annie McCormick

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 17 customer reviews
My fears were unfounded in the most pleasant of ways.
Dara Harris
The descriptions of Japan and its people were vividly and objectively described, and all the characters- even the lesser ones- were complex and well-developed.
Patricia V. Davis (Volonakis)
It is a book for all ages, and is an appropriate read for teens and adults alike.
Poppy J.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. Luciano VINE VOICE on March 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
Celeste has fond memories of her Aunt Mitch, a Japanese woman who treated her kindly as a child. This was before Celeste's mother died, before Aunt Mitch moved away, before Celeste found herself in foster homes without any family at all.

Now Celeste is 33 years old, and has just found out her Aunt Mitch died, leaving her as the next of kin. She receives a package of photos, momentos, Aunt Mitch's ashes, and a single home movie that shows Celeste as a tiny child, being doted on by a man she doesn't recognize. Celeste's mind reels. Could this man be the father she's never known? Aunt Mitch left written instructions for Celeste to find her estranged sister and return these belongings to her, so Celeste starts off on a grand adventure to Japan, to seek out her aunt's sister and, if she's lucky, gain some insight into her own past.

I really liked the descriptions of Japan in this book; it seems like a fascinating country. It was interesting to read about Celeste trying to navigate a place so culturally different from her own home, especially as she didn't speak the language.

I found Celeste herself to be rather uninteresting, though. She did some drawing and some singing, and she was trying to track down her father, but she didn't seem passionate about anything. She seemed to really dislike her boyfriend, Dirk, but didn't do anything about it except ignore him while on her trip. She liked Takuya, but was completely passive about their relationship, agonizing over why he wouldn't make a move while refusing to make one herself. Celeste just seemed too weak to carry this story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Beth Hoffman on December 24, 2009
Format: Paperback
Celeste, a young woman determined to find her place in life (and the world), is a wonderfully drawn character. Her journey to discover her roots takes her from San Jose to Japan and treats us to a wonderful story filled with a bit of mystery, a bit of family-tree sleuthing, and a great deal of heart.

Wendy Tokunaga's descriptions of life in Japan are vivid and enormously enjoyable. I was swept away and embraced by a culture that, before reading this book, I knew very little about.

Twists and surprises abound, as does humor and tenderness. LOVE IN TRANSLATION was a joy to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Shannon O'May on March 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
Celeste is an American 30-something at somewhat of a crossroads in life, determined to find her place in the world. At exactly the moment when she needs it, a package arrives from a long lost relative that takes her from America to Tokyo to discover the Japanese roots she didn't know she had. Little does Celeste know this journey is also about finding life and love. I felt she was a wonderfully drawn character, and you definitely root for her, even if at times you want to give her a little nudge. Celeste's journey is full of mystery, family-tree sleuthing, and a lot of heart. I loved Tokunaga's descriptions of Japan and the incredible people Celeste meets. I knew only a little about the modern culture of Tokyo but was swept away with Celeste as she discovered life and love there. Recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Wendy Nelson Tokunaga's "Love in Translation" is a novel about discovering how a person's past does provide meaning and relevance to her future.

In this story, Celeste Duncan begins her quest to find her roots, after the death of a close relative. Celeste travels to Japan to live with the Kubota family, in a modified arranged homestay agreement. Although she is much older than a typical exchange student, (she's 33 years old) she is just as inept at adjusting to the local Japanese customs, and routinely finds herself embarrassed and ashamed at her gaffes and faux pas with her host family. Her singing is her saving grace, and she is able to win over her host family, and later many more admirers, with her ability to capture the spirit of what it means to be Japanese - as depicted in the way she sings her songs.

Celeste-san, as her Japanese host mother fondly calls her, is desperately trying to piece together the puzzle of her heritage. As she works diligently to locate her long lost relatives, she is actually hoping to find out who she really is. Her quest leads her to potential real love (with her homestay "brother" Takuya), true friendship (with her wacky Japanese instructor Mariko) and an understanding of her real-time relationship with her disinterested state-side boyfriend (Dirk).

Through learning about the Japanese culture, Celeste learns about her real-life connection to her mysterious past. The book has just enough excitement to keep the reader guessing what will come next. What I enjoyed was that the story was fresh and not a bit predictable. There were several twists and turns, with just enough action to keep me reading.

The book "Love in Translation" plays on the theme of a movie by a similar name.
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
While the title of Wendy Nelson Tokunaga's new novel is a play on words of the movie that put Scarlet Johansson on the map, this book is everything I wished the movie had been (what's so difficult about staying in a five star hotel in Tokyo while your boyfriend works all day--sounds like vacation to me!).

Wendy Tokunaga is not only a great storyteller, but a witty humorist as well, immersing the reader in the cartoon culture of Hello Kitty and Japanese game shows. The plot itself--thirty-something Celeste Duncan moves from the Bay Area to Tokyo in search of a long lost shirt-tail relative--promises mystery, adventure, and excitement, but it's Celeste's encounter with Japanese culture that really kept my attention. With each cultural obstacle she encounters (wearing the wrong slippers in her host family's house, balking at a Japanese breakfast when she's first served one, or navigating her way through written and spoken Japanese), Celeste adapts well and becomes more confident in her ability to live in Japan, and, with hope, find the last remnants of her family. I also love how Celeste is determined to show up her ex-boyfriend by succeeding in Japan when he was so sure she couldn't.

I often found myself laughing out loud and craving the food that Celeste eats in the book, be it the elaborate Japanese breakfast, the delicious "shoe creams", or a hot bowl of fresh ramen. I would recommend this book to anyone who has been to Japan or is planning a trip there, is interested in Japanese culture or cross-cultural relationships, or simply enjoys a good book about beating the odds and coming out on top. If you haven't read Tokunaga's debut novel, "Midori by Moonlight", that's a must-read, too.
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More About the Author

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga is the author of the novels, "Midori by Moonlight" and "Love in Translation" (both published by St. Martin's Press), the original e-book novels, "Falling Uphill" and "His Wife and Daughters," and the short story, "The Girl in the Tapestry." She's also the author of the original nonfiction e-book, "Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband." Her short story "Love Right on the Yesterday" appears in the anthology "Tomo," published by Stone Bridge Press and her essay "Burning Up" is included in "Madonna and Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop."

Wendy holds an MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco and teaches for Stanford University's Online Writer's Studio. She also does private manuscript consulting for novels and memoirs. When she's not busy writing, Wendy loves to sing jazz and Japanese karaoke with her Osaka-born surfer-dude husband accompanying her on keyboards. Follow her on Twitter at @Wendy_Tokunaga and visit her website at: www.WendyTokunaga.com

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Love in Translation: A Novel
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