I've been reading How To BE An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway this week. I looked forward to having some free moments to spend with this debut novel by a woman who is the daughter of an American father and Japanese mother. Her novel is based on stories she'd heard all her life.
The reviews at Amazon, both editorial and customer written, were filled with words like enchanting, engrossing, delightful . I would agree.
The story is told by Shoko in the first section of the book. She was a child in WWII Japan and a young girl during the American occupation. She marries an American to better her life, but over many years of her marriage, she comes to love Charlie. She raises her two children, Mike and Suiko, with a mixture of her Japanese background and the new ways she's learned in America. Some things she has read in a book that is meant to teach Japanese war brides the way to be a good wife. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from this book, and many seem laughable these many decades later. At the time, they were serious business.
Shoko has a secret, kept for over fifty years, and she has a rift to mend with a brother still in Japan. She plans to go see him, but illness cancels that thought. Instead, she talks her daughter, Suiko, whom the family calls Sue, into going for her. "Deliver this letter for me to Taro," she asks. Sue and her 12 year old daughter make the journey to Japan and find more than just a few relatives.
The story is about war brides but more than that, it is a story of relationships and identity. It's about mothers and daughters and husbands and wives. Shoko's tale is filled with humor and sadness at the same time.
This is a book I plan to recommend to my book club, when my turn to select the book rolls around next spring. There is a lot in the book that is thought provoking and plenty for discussion questions.