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Picking Bones from Ash: A Novel Kindle Edition

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: #544,252 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Sincerely Yours VINE VOICE on August 20, 2009
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Poppy J. on July 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The first half of the story begins in Japan in the mid 1950s. The main character of the story is Satomi, and she relives the teachings and life advice from her mother Akiko. The author depicts the colorful and rich heritage of Japanese culture, and the reader will enjoy the scenes being painted by the story. Satomi realizes that she is special, and understands the burdens that come along with being different. Satomi's mother was scorned in their village, the other women were jealous of Akiko because she knew too much about men, and they were threatened by those secrets that she held. Satomi was raised with superstitions, and was always on the lookout for demons meant to steal her soul.

Satomi begins piano lessons and wins local contests with her talent. She finds that mysterious men are her benefactors and she is shunned by other women because of this fact. Her mother relents and gets married to make a better life for Satomi. The story then shifts to when she meets Timothy Snowden, moves to Paris and begins a new life. When Timothy disappears, Satomi must find a new life for herself and discover what she will do to make her mark on the world.

The second half of the story focuses on Rumi, Satomi's American daughter. Rumi and her father Francis are in San Francisco in the 1980s, where Rumi sees Snowden and continues to hear the voice of her lost mother.

The reader will find the characters less interesting in the second half of the story. It may be difficult to keep up with the characters and the storyline, since there are new characters and their new motivations that are never quite explained. The best parts of the story are when the mothers and daughters react to their mothers, to the advice that proves right, and to the aspects of their lives that they cannot anticipate. It is a story that is best read consistently through, not one to pick up and put down for very long.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on August 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Satomi is a female character that is difficult to like. Self absorbed and stubborn she suffered her mother's demands with grace. Things in the story are not what they seem to be. Are the antiques real or fake? Are they legal or stolen? The tale is like the masks that the Japanese people wear, some wear real and freightening masks for festivals and some just facial expressions that hide thoughts and emotions. Satomi and Rumi each put forth great effort to please their one single parent. Both struggle with their identities, seeking to know who their parents are and who they themselves wish to be. Each has to escape from the parent to learn their true identity. Each struggles in her relationship with men; each does not know who to trust and maybe she should trust none of them. The second half of the book seems greatly removed from the first. The first half seems grounded in tedious reality while the second incorporates the supernatural and fantasy.
I have traveled in Japan several times. It is a fascinating and beautiful place. The people are interesting although you don't get to know them easily. In spite of it's modern face, much of Japan still is rooted in mystic tradition. Picking Bones from Ashes shows both sides of Japan's culture beautifully.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on September 16, 2009
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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