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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: 8.3 x 7.1 x 0.8 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: #2,597,581 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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

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:

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 17 customer reviews
It is a book for all ages, and is an appropriate read for teens and adults alike.
Poppy J.
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)
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.
Susan Blumberg-Kason

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
Thirty three year old Celeste Duncan extrapolates her present into the future and what she sees is ennui. She needs a change with her job and with her sort of boyfriend, but the wannabe singer fears taking the first step professionally or personally.

However, Celeste receives an odd phone call and a box arrives filled with heirlooms; clues to the unknown father she never met. On a whim based on these new items being omens, she flies from San Jose to Japan in a ten hour airborne sardine can flight to meet her father. When she meets her English-speaking homestay "brother" Takuya she wants to kiss him senseless, but holds in check the desire. He helps her follow the clues especially with translating Japanese into English. As they travel across Japan, Celeste finds she is falling in love with her twenty-eight tears old guide, but his mom has his former girlfriend in mind for a daughter-in-law. As the trek increasingly looks futile, a despondent Celeste wonders if it is time to return the land of boredom.

This is a fun yet profound tale due to the lead female who uses self deprecating amusing metaphors to describe her despondency over her life back in the States and her seeming failures in Japan. The story line is character driven as the audience will enjoy Celeste's fumbling with the culture starting with her practiced words in Japanese that she thought meant thank you for welcoming her, but instead her teacher tricked her and she proposed. Fans will enjoy an American in Japan falling in love with her homestay brother, the culture and the people as she searches for her biological father.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had strong fears about what my reaction to this book would be, stemming from stereotypes and preconceived notions of my own; that the blonde-haired beauty would waltz in and have every man in the book drooling over her with no effort on her part, i.e., that I would not be able to root for her, and might even view her with bitter disdain.

My fears were unfounded in the most pleasant of ways. I found myself wishing only the best for her through all aspects of her journey. I was amazed at how the author was able to make descriptions in a way that I felt was pleasing to everyone who knows nothing of Japan, to people who have lived there before (enough to give a sense of the location, but not so much as to contradict anything that may have changed since the book was written and give a sense of discord to those who have seen the changes.) The cultural explanations were a bit "yeah, yeah, I know that already" for me, but at the same time, they were refreshing to read, and I feel they painted a good picture for people who had yet to learn them.

Overall, just a fantastic book that exceeded my expectations.
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