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Picking Bones from Ash: A Novel Kindle Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Length: 297 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this ambitious debut, the narration alternates between Satomi, a Japanese girl pushed by her mother to make her mark on the world, and Rumi, Satomi's American daughter who grows up in the mid-late 1960s believing her mother is dead. The novel is strongest at the beginning, as Satomi tells of her postwar childhood in a small Japanese village, the only girl without a father and the only girl with a talent: she is going to be a world-famous concert pianist. After her mother remarries, Satomi goes away to music school and, later, to Paris to perfect her craft. In Paris and back in Japan, Satomi falls in with the Western antique dealers who will eventually take her to the United States after her mother dies. The second half switches between the stories of Satomi and Rumi, who develops a skill at reading Asian antiques and begins to wonder about her mother when an old friend of her parents re-enters her life. Rumi's quest to unravel her tricky family history is absorbing, and even if it lacks the simple beauty of Satomi's coming-of-age narrative, Mockett succeeds where many others fail: making the reader care. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“A book of intelligence and heart.” —AMY TAN

“Deeply preoccupied with girls, talent, and power.” —MAUD NEWTON

“The best elements of a mystery story, ghost story, magical realism and the complex difficulties in deciding what is ‘best’ for our elders and offspring.” Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[Picking Bones from Ash], so firmly anchored in a sensuous reality, veers into a dream world. A reader has the sense that even the author was driven by her most powerful character: the original mother, raising her daughter alone, shunned by villagers, forced to make decisions that haunt her descendants.” —Los Angeles Times

Product Details

  • File Size: 804 KB
  • Print Length: 297 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (February 1, 2011)
  • Publication Date: February 1, 2011
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004K1ERYK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #635,402 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Marie Mutsuki Mockett Marie was born in Carmel, California to a Japanese mother and American father. Her debut novel, Picking Bones from Ash, was shortlisted for the 2010 Saroyan Prize, the Asian American Literary Awards for Fiction and was a Finalist for the Paterson Prize. She has been awarded scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and Napa Valley Writers Conference and was the recipient of the 2013 NEA/Japan US Friendship Commission Fellowship. Additional work has been published in the New York Times, Salon, Glamour, National Geographic, Agni, NPR and other publications. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and son.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This author has a real talent in story telling and what a great first novel. The author offers her characters as teachers in telling us a wonderful story of life past and present, transporting us over 50 years of the beautiful traditions of Japan; and regardless of our geographic location, our ancestrial past continues to have an imprint on our lives. The story was more a mystery within a mystery, which the author did a brilliant job in keeping the reader focused and intensely intrigued with each turn of the page; but remained faithful to fold back the mist and allowing us see for ourselves that life is complicated and that we have choices in how we choose to live, but above all Love prevails. Told from many people's perspective, which added bounce, depth and intrigue to each of the key characters. I loved the novel for the mystery and then the reveal. If you loved the Joy Luck Club then you will love this book. This novel is made for a movie!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Picking Bones from Ash is a wonderful story, containing mysteries and ghosts, ancient Buddhas and modern Japan, antiques and backpacking travellers. The story begins with Satomi, a spunky girl with a talent for music. Raised by her single mother, she isn't easily accepted in small town Japan. When her mother remarries, she feels abandoned. Not long after, she sets off to Paris to study music. There, she meets an intriguing westerner - Timothy Snowden. She becomes wrapped up in his life and eventually finds herself more at home in the West than the East. Later the story continues with her daughter, Rumi, who has a talent for reading objects - specifically Asian antiques - and makes a living in San Francisco as an antique dealer. One day she travels to Japan to seek her mother. The two womens' stories entwine and reflect one another.

The description of this book doesn't do it justice. I left this for last of all my reviews, and it turned out much more interesting than I expected. The sharp contrast between Part One and Part Two really took me by surprise and bothered me at the time - it felt so abrupt. But it was necessary to create a mystery. The author tied it all together by the end.

I can give this book no higher praise than saying that I gave up sleep to read it. You see, I have been reading while I feed my son during the night. Usually we are up three times a night. Reasonably, I should only read while he eats and then go back to bed. Instead, I would find myself continuing to read this book, while my son dreams away on my chest.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Being Japanese" means more than simply being born and raised in the country. It means you are (even posthumously) part of and embrace the traditions of a family or clan. The country has a wonderful culture, however nonconformist relationships and broken families were scrutinized with barbaric prejudice. Picking Bones from Ash is an imaginative adventure that reunites a tragically unconventional Japanese family in a uniquely Japanese fashion. Under the eloquent, captivating scenes, Ms. Mockett weaves in cultural themes at turmoil that propel the heroine, Satomi.

In Part 2, the storytelling changes in both pace and tone. This is an ingenious technique of understanding the co-heroine, Rumi, a Californian who's life, in comparison to Satomi, is sheltered and unencumbered with the pressures of cultural expectations. The change of pace is cleverly reminiscent of a Japanese Noh Play, alluding to Rumi's connection to her Japanese roots and to the musical theme from Part 1 - the tone and pace is Rumi's "accent."

The story is laden with music references. In one instance, rather than using the Norse spelling of "Brynhildr" to describe the valkyrie, (homage to Kingston?) Ms. Mockett opts for Wagner's "Brünnhilde", from Der Ring Des Nibelungen. At first this seemed out of place, but it cleverly foreshadows the epic adventure that would ensue as the story takes you on a ride with the gosenzo spirit, seeking ancient artifacts, encounters with demons and Transformers, and up the slopes of Osorezan, Japan's version of Mount Doom!

Brava, Marie!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This novel tells the story of three women, mothers and daughters, and what those ties mean to each of them. The book begins with Satomi in Japan 1954 living with her single mother. Satomi does not know who her father is and neither do the townspeople. Satomi is a very talented pianist which keeps the townspeople respecting her mother and her, until her mother borrows money from the men at the bar she runs to take Satomi on a piano competition in another location. After the townspeople turn on Satomi and her mother, her mother makes the decision to marry and they both move into her husband's home in the North of Japan to live with him and his two daughters. Satomi cannot get used to this new world or her new step-sisters. Satomi is subsequently shipped off to boarding school where she still tries her best to please her mother. The first half of the book follows Satomi's life.

Then the second half of the book picks up with Rumi, Satomi's daughter, who is half-Japanese and half-American and grows up in San Francisco with her father. Rumi believes her mother to be dead and makes no effort to find out anything about Satomi until an old friend of her father's and mother's comes into her life and prompts her to find out what happened to Satomi. This begins Rumi's adventure.

This is a sweet and sometimes sad novel but it will keep you guessing until the very end. I could not stop reading this book in order to find out what happens. I highly recommend it.
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