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The Favorites: A Novel Hardcover – June 2, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Intrusion: A Novel
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Waters is a graceful, subtle writer, gifted at limning the intricate connections between women bound together by blood or marriage. This is a novel of extraordinary beauty." -- Booklist, starred review

Review

"Waters is a graceful, subtle writer, gifted at limning the intricate connections between women bound together by blood or marriage. This is a novel of extraordinary beauty."-- Booklist, starred review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (June 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416561072
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416561071
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #284,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By M. Penn on June 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This remarkable story develops through the visits of a Japanese/American girl to her mother's home in Kyoto. The complexity of relationships and cultures is entertaining on many levels and full of insight. You'll have to make an effort to keep the names of the characters straight, but it's a touching story well told.
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Format: Hardcover
Like a soft whisper, Mary Yukari Waters' writing is quietly powerful. Her book, The Favorites, is simply wonderful. She perfectly captures the subtle nuances of a relationship between a mother and her daughter, and the 3 generations of women this story is about...

The Favorites is narrated through the voice of 14-year-old Sarah as she returns to Kyoto to visit her mother's family. Her innocent observations guide the story, as she learns about the beauty of Japan, the streets & surroundings that her mother walked as a child, and the complexities of the relationships between the women of her family.

The Favorites also touches on the challenges an immigrant experiences in a land foreign to them- Sarah is half Japanese because her mother married an American, so she deals with her feelings of being an outsider,with strangers on the street, but also with her family. We learn of the differences of Sarah's mother living in America as a foreigner and her return to her native home. What's also wonderful is how Sarah views these differences, and her growing appreciation and love as a result

I loved this book! In near perfect prose Mary Yukari Waters relates the honesty in feelings a daughter has for her mother; the unconditional love, the teenage embarrassment, the growing respect & love... It's about aunts & cousins, nieces & matriarchs, and how everyone has a special place in a family. Mary Yukari Waters writes so well about the complex feelings these women have for each other. She uses the eyes of Sarah to tell us and does this with the backdrop of one of my favorite places, Japan. A country filled with wonderful traditions, beauty, and superstitions...
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Format: Hardcover
"Favorites" is a novel of relationships; mainly of mothers and daughters but also of sisters and cousins and aunts. Three generations of women have their relationships with each other bound by a secret that they all know, but must not talk about: One woman, widowed with one child already and another on the way in war-torn Japan, gave up her baby daughter to her sister-in-law. The two families live side by side, observing strict rules of behavior towards each other.

The first part of the story is told largely through the eyes of Sarah Rexford, fourteen when the novel starts. Half American, half Japanese, she and her mother- daughter of the woman who gave up one child- are visiting Japan. Although Sarah spent her early childhood in Japan, and knows how to behave properly, she is now old enough to question things and learn the secret. Through her learning of traditional Japanese ways, we learn them. It's a bit lecture-y at times, but because it's a parent instructing a child, it's not too heavy handed. This is how we learn *why* the women must act as they do.

As we go further into the story, we see deeper into the relationships. Though there are men in the households, they almost never appear- it's all about the women. The different degrees of love between them, their losses. It's a very touching novel that burrows down into the heart. Although she's been a short story writer for sometime, this is Waters's first novel, but it has the power of a fully developed novelist. I look forward eagerly for further work from this writer.
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Format: Hardcover
Waters writes well enough to make a quiet study of the relationships in an extended family compelling. It helps that the novel takes place in Kyoto, Japan during a time of transition from the pre-war to the modern, when women's role in life changes. It is written almost like a play, with most of the action taking place in two neighboring houses, at various points in time. One negative is that Waters has no gift for analogies and metaphors. Also, while the relationships are nuanced and evolve, the characters are not so nuanced. The male characters are there primarily because they are needed for the plot.
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Format: Hardcover
In her debut novel, The Favorites, gifted short story writer Mary Yukari Waters tells the story of a Japanese family once torn apart by war and now living with the sacrifices of the past. The Kobayashi and Asaki households live side by side, seemingly related only by marriage; however, a deeper, unspoken secret unites them.

Divided into four parts, The Favorites begins when fifteen year old Sarah Rexford and her mother Yoko arrive in their native Kyoto for the summer. Sarah is a "half" -- half-Japanese and half-American -- and thus does not belong fully to either culture. However, as she navigates the complex family relationships, sees her mother for the first time as popular, becomes reacquainted with her young cousins, and gets settled into the Japanese household, Sarah begins to understand some deep truths about her extended family and where she belongs in its hierarchy. In later sections, the point-of-view switches to those of the Japanese women and their methods of coping to a family tragedy that ignites the wounds of their past.

At first, the cultural details are somewhat heavy-handed, and they seem designed to instruct rather than provide richness to the story itself. When combined with Sarah's unsophisticated point-of-view, these facts give the first part the feel of a young adult, or possibly middle school, novel. Fortunately, Ms. Waters leaves Sarah's point-of-view for a subtle but much deeper look into the family dynamics through the eyes of the Japanese women. The way the Japanese women cope with their unspoken emotions gives this novel the heart it lacks in the beginning.

Ms. Waters is an excellent writer, and her accessible prose and characterizations carry this story forward with ease, even though it reads at times like an extended short story. As the novel moves from teenage blunt force to delicate beauty, it offers the rewards of a well-written tale.

-- Debbie Lee Wesselmann
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