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The Yokota Officers Club Hardcover – June 19, 2001

4.6 out of 5 stars 77 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Stories nestle inside stories like a set of Russian dolls in Bird's (Virgin of the Rodeo) wonderful fifth novel. Set in the late 1960s, it is narrated by 18-year-old Bernie, the eldest of six children in the peripatetic Root family. After her freshman year in college, Bernie joins her nomadic kin at their current home, an Okinawan air force base. They have changed: her younger sister, Kit, is out of control and "now being played by Lolita"; her once glamorous mother, Moe, is overweight and depressed; her father, who was a heroic and swaggering fighter pilot, has become a distant, self-loathing "ground pounder." And Bernie can't stop thinking of Fumiko, the family's former maidservant, whom no one is allowed to mention. Before being sucked into the family's torpor, Bernie escapes by winning a dance contest that lands her in Tokyo as the stage partner of Bobby Moses, a third-rate borscht belt comedian. There she delves into the past to solve the mystery surrounding Fumiko's disappearance and her family's deterioration. Bernie sharp and snarky, yet severely introverted is a delightful heroine, and the large cast that swirls around her is equally endearing. Particularly fine are the wisecracking yet nurturing Moe and the oddly touching Bobby Moses, who's vulgar and mediocre, but insistent on professionalism. The dialogue is first-rate, and all the '60s brand-name dropping is amusing; the decade becomes fresh again when seen from the unusual perspective of a military family (especially this one) removed from mainland society. (June) Forecast: Bird has David Sedaris's gift for mining scathing wit from family dysfunction. Only one of her earlier novels is still in print, but hopefully her move to Knopf (and a slew of enthusiastic blurbs from the likes of Rick Bass) will help her to win the large readership she deserves.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Bird has created a deftly choreographed journey of the heart, delicate and nuanced in its disclosure of painful family secrets, yet liberally seasoned with robust humor. Readers travel with 18-year-old Bernie Root as she returns from her freshman year of college in the States to visit her military family, currently stationed on Okinawa. The "fresh eyes" with which she views her parents and five younger siblings will resonate with many teens. Beyond this, the complex range of emotions generated by her reentry into life on a military base, with all its familiar, yet insular and confining, characteristics is poignantly captured. Bernie's distress at her parents' deteriorating marriage and her continuing thorny relationship with her beautiful younger sister provide a sober backdrop that is nevertheless leavened by vignettes and hilarious reminiscences of life on the move and the pitfalls of always being the new kid in town. At the core of the story is the protagonist's attempt to unveil the mystery surrounding the disappearance of a beloved servant who lived with the family 10 years prior when they were stationed in Japan, while the father was assigned to a squadron flying surveillance missions shrouded in secrecy. Bernie intuitively senses that discovering Fumiko's fate is key to understanding the forces that are destabilizing her family. The revelations that ensue lead her along a path of self-discovery to a heartrending confrontation with the harsh consequences of one's actions, and to a new level of maturity. A beautifully paced story, especially recommended for (but not limited to) any locale with a military base nearby.

Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (June 19, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037541214X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375412141
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,356,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As a military brat who grew up on a number of air force bases all over the United States and abroad I found this book to be a non-stop, cover to cover read.
Although I knew this book was a fictional work, the characters became absolutely real to me. The brothers and sisters in this book were my brothers and sisters and my friends in the military base Capehart housing down the street. One of the book's locales, Kadena AFB on Okinawa, "the rock" was much the same as one of the bases I grew up on, Ramey AFB in Puerto Rico, "the rock" on the other side of the world. The pilot father as a maniac behind the wheel, racing a large family packed into a car almost non-stop to his next duty station was my B-52 crewman father doing the same thing with my family.
The forever concerns I had while growing up of getting into trouble and ruining my father's career, walked up behind me and once again breathed heavily down my neck as I read this book.
More importantly, I was reminded of friends who were removed from military bases and my life the very day after their fathers didn't come back from "training and weather missions." At age 46 this book finally brought home to me the fact that I was not allowed, as a friend, to share their grief and offer support over the loss of their fathers. A tragedy for all concerned, but shared and shouldered by very few.
Sarah Bird's first person fictional narrative of the personal one on one relationship between the the main character, Bernie, and the family maid Fumiko and the family secrets surrounding her; speaks volumes on the impact we, in a smaller sense as military children growing up overseas and we, in a larger sense as a country, had on people in the countries occupied by America's military after World War II.
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Format: Hardcover
Having lived at Yokota AFB from 1957-59 seeing this book really took me by surprise so I ran out and read it immediately. I couldn't put it down. It is hard to find a book that reminds us brats of our childhood, but reading "Yokota" did it for me! It brought back so many fond memories of Japan, the Teen Club, the Father and Daughter Brownie Banquet and especially of our maid Iseko. This book left me in a very reflective mood. I wish my Dad were still around to talk to him adult to adult about our military life. All those long forgotten memories and feelings... thanks to Sarah Bird for bringing them to the surface again. Thanks too for trying to explain the complex chemistry of the military life, its people, and burdens that the government expects from all of them. I'm proud to be an American, I'm proud to be an USAF brat and I'm glad I read The Yokota Officers Club.
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Format: Hardcover
Just when you think you've had enough of novels about disintegrating families, there comes a book as appealing as "The Yokota Officers' Club." Author Sarah Bird whisks you away to the military world of Okinawa in 1968, where Peter, Paul & Mary's "I Dig Rock and Roll Music" passes for real rock 'n roll; where military families fear breaking an unspoken code of behavior and being RIFed, and where Vietnam is still a flicker in the background.
After her first year of college, Bernie Root comes home to Okinawa, the place her family happens to be that summer. Her dad's in the Air Force, and they move around a lot. But things have changed shockingly in her year away from the family. Her parents' marriage has turned ugly, and her off-beat tribe of brothers and sisters are almost too quirky to fit in anywhere. Being back in Asia reminds Bernie of the four happy years in Tokyo, a time made special by the family's closeness and the presence of their Japanese maid Fumiko, whom Bernie and her mother loved very much. Fumiko's name is never spoken now, and Bernie wonders why.
She gets the chance to find out when she wins a dance contest to tour air bases in Japan with Far East Funnyman Bobby Moses, a comic whose creaking act provides pained yucks for entertainment-starved officers clubs. His sidekick doesn't add much. Not with Bernie squeezed into tiny go-go boots halfheartedly jiving to whatever piece of cornball music a local band can come up with. She soldiers on for the chance to find Fumiko.
Her discovery is surprising and disconcerting, and even more so is the role Bernie finds she played in it. Sarah Bird's portrait of Americans in 1950s and 60s Japan makes for excellent reading. Intelligent and funny, "The Yokota Officers' Club" will not disappoint readers who set high standards for their summer reading.
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Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading "The Yokota Officers Club." It reminded me of my lost military brat past. I'm feeling strangely out of place at this moment in time as I look around my civilian world, which though I've known it for half my life now, suddenly seems foreign all over again. I suddenly have an urge to go down to a military base and surround myself with the familiar.
It is this effect I find most powerful about Sarah's story. She includes lots of the details of life on Okinawa, something else with which I identify. Around that she weaves all the stuff that is familiar to anyone who has grown up in or married into the military. The social circles and wearing of the husband's rank, the frequent moves into all too familiar housing, and the fear that maybe dad wouldn't come home this time are all in the book.
The story has a bit of a bittersweet ending. This is entirely appropriate though. That's what the military life is like.
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