Tori Kovac, in present day America, watches her father die right after he gives her a letter that was written by him to someone in Japan, and it was returned in the mail. Who is it to, and what does it mean?
Seventeen year old Naoko Nakamura, in 1950s Japan, is being pressured into an arranged marriage to improve her family’s financial stability. But she is in love with someone else… an American sailor, Jimmy, a gaijin still hated in this decade after the war. And, furthermore, she’s carrying his child. This does not go over well with her family. With only her frail mother for an ally, she does not realize how far her father and grandmother will go to prevent losing face.
In alternating chapters, Naoko and Tori narrate their stories. Naoko relates her trials of the next year of her life, which include people she thought she could trust betraying her. After a quick wedding that isn’t binding, Jimmy/Hajime is taken away from her by naval maneuvers, and without him to protect her, a tragedy puts her back into her family’s hands. Tori’s story is how she unravels the mystery of Naoki and her father.
It’s not a spoiler to say this doesn’t end happily for Naoko and Jimmy; it’s right there in the beginning. But the road that Naoko has to travel is not easy, and her story is quite suspenseful. I was really cheering for her! Tori I didn’t care so much for- the author didn’t put as much into her, I felt. Four stars for a good tale and a plucky protagonist.