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The Ocean in the Closet Paperback – May 1, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
I ordered this book as soon as it came out, after having read Taniguchi's "Foreign Wife Elegy".
The story is about a mother, Anna, going through a nervous breakdown, and her young daughter Helen, trying to understand why. This leads Helen to Hideo's home in Japan. Hideo has been wondering about Anna, his niece, who was adopted by a family in the U.S.
I enjoyed the easy flow between Hideo/Japan & Helen/USA (notice the chapter titles!). I also enjoy Taniguchi's writing - her similes, metaphors, allegories, how Helen & Hideo describe their feelings.
It's a well-written beautiful story with fantastic imagery and descriptions.
I would definitely like to see another novel (or book of poetry) by Yuko Taniguchi.
BTW: Fine line between armchair critic and literary hitman and sorry to see quite a few people crossing it on amazon. an unfortunate trend for certain non-literary readers to rip apart serious works of prose, condemning them because they lack vapid characters and plots worthy of a lifetime special. when the work is emotionally challenging, it seems to enrage some readers the point of making a personal attack on the author. i hope this author listens only to the praise. onward to her!
It is November 1975, in Japan, and a man named Hideo Takagawa is uneasy about a letter from a young Helen Johnson in America, who identifies Takagawa as her mom's uncle. Helen tells her Uncle that her mom is sick and asks if she could visit him in Japan. Hideo remembers Helen's mom named Anna, but only as a baby. He is queasy. This letter opens up wounds from the past.
Then the narration switches to Helen. We are held captive by her innocence,candor, and worries. Helen tells us about things that are very abnormal at home about her Mom and Dad. "What is wrong with this family?" readers think with alarm. Be prepared to turn the pages quickly. What worse things might happen?
When narration switches back to Hideo, we learn about the suffering of Hideo's sister named Ume, who is Anna's mother and Helen's maternal grandmother. We cling to Hideo's stories of his silky Asian childhood dominated by callous males and we watch as his mostly loveless family unravels during and after World War II.
The story fast-forwards to Helen and now we really simmer at the actions of the adults in her life. Helen learns remarkable new things about her mom's and dad's past. She wants to know more because she hopes she can help Mom.
Author Taniguchi's language is both poetic and convincing. The narrators seem authentic and believable. As Helen's thoughts race with impulsive questions and her feelings shift between anger and hope, readers forget their surroundings and think like a girl.Read more ›
The story is told from two perspectives; the first is Helen, a nine year old girl living with a father suffering from PTSD (a Vietnam vet) and a mother who is disconnected from reality. When she's sent to live with her aunt and uncle, she begins to discover things about her parents which lead her on a journey to Japan to discover more about her mother's past.
The second is Hideo, Helen's great-uncle. From him, we learn about Ume, Helen's grandmother, and Helen's mother Anna. The strict Japanese culture combined with the horrors of WWII in Japan lead Ume to make horrible decisions to give her child the best possible life. Here we see how the history of this family is passed down to Helen, and how Helen must be the one to reconnect with the past instead of being distant from it.
Language is everything in this book; from the way the image of water is depicted to the culture of Japan, every page is beautiful. It surprises you and breaks your heart with the stories revealed, but the whole time you see how the awful pasts of each character reflects in their present. It's not always a positive reflection, but it is always honest. Rarely do you get a book that's honesty moves you as much as this one does.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Taniguchi writes at the intersection of human life: intersection of sanity and trauma, the intersection of history and modern life, the intersection of... Read more
This was actually my first reading of a Taniguchi book. I felt that it was compelling and beautifully written. Read morePublished on April 19, 2009 by AMAZShopper
As I read many many novels I was greatly disappointed by "OCEAN IN THE CLOSET". The author lacked creative characters and plot lines. Read morePublished on May 26, 2008 by Disappointed reader