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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: 8.2 x 6.9 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,361,568 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: www.WendyTokunaga.com

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 16 customer reviews
Twists and surprises abound, as does humor and tenderness.
Beth Hoffman
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)
Most of all - and this is awfully rare today - this is a book which leaves you feeling better than you did when you started it.
George Goldberg

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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By sparkle on August 27, 2013
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book. It is the story about a woman who is on a journey to find her father, and how she actually finds herself. It is a wonderful read. I liked reading Celeste's story and seeing her go from her relationship in America to a whole new beginning in Japan. How she found herself along with a father she never knew.
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By Amy Chavez on December 27, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I just loved the portrayal of the Japanese homestay experience in Love in Translation. I've had a few homestay experiences myself and they are always real eye-openers into Japanese culture. Celeste's hilarious homestay experience where the homestay mother invites her friends over to see the foreigner and have her sing for them, was right on. And Sakura's character was also so funny, and so true. Great insights on Japan!
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Format: Paperback
The editorial and reader reviews describe this novel in (more than?) enough detail. It is after all a novel, a story, and I for one only want from a review help in knowing if I want to read the book, not a substitute for reading it. I would only add to what has already been said, that this is escapist literature but of the very best kind. It is not a guide to living in Japan - it is not the typical experience of a gaijin who speaks no Japanese - to the contrary, it is essentially a fairy tale which stretches right to the edges of believability. Most of all - and this is awfully rare today - this is a book which leaves you feeling better than you did when you started it. I loved it.
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Format: Paperback
Celeste Duncan has lead a hard life. She never knew her
father, her mother died when she was young, she moved from
foster home to foster home all her life; never finding a
permanent family, and her boyfriend is always criticizing
her music. She just feels stuck. But when an unexpected
phone call tells her about her late aunt, she must travel
to Tokyo to return the family heirlooms and possibly find
some clues about her father. With her cute homestay
brother, Takuya, they travel Japan trying to find her
family. But things get tough with her nosy homestay
mother, Takuya's ex girlfriend, and her music career.
Will she ever find the family of her dreams?

This book was very good! Celeste is nice, her Japanese
teacher, Mariko, is funny, Takuya is cute, and his ex,
Sakura is annoying. Everything is right. There are a lot
of Japanese words and traditions that are well-explained.
This book makes me want to go to Japan! Love in
Translation did not end the way I thought it would, but I
like this ending better! I could really see this book as
a blockbuster film!

Note: There are a few sexual references,
and one sex scene.

Reviewed by a young adult student reviewer
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