Originally posted Thursday, November 27, 2008
This novel is the most believable I have ever read, it was like reading a true autobiography. This is not to say that I believe Sachiko is based on the author’s life, for that is something I do not know. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Shizue Tomoda has captured both the post-war Japan era and the American eras of the war in Vietnam and the breaking away of the ideals and conformity of earlier decades. Even as a Canadian living through the same decades, I could feel bonded with the story as it progressed.
This is the story of a young 14 year old girl in Japan who through sheer determination and belief in herself works hard to gather every bit of information she will need to go to high school in America despite the opposition of her family. Coming from a very traditional Japanese Buddhist family, this is no small feat. But Sachiko never veers from her decision and proceeds with her plans regardless. At the last moment permission and funds for her fare to the United States are provided by her parents, and she travels alone to America. She has already gained a sponsor, an invitation and scholarship to study in Newburgh, New York. I admire the strength and depth of feeling in this character both in her old world and the new. She settles quickly into her new life, and is doing well until she is shocked to discover the racism her sponsors harbor toward the blacks, and cannot avoid a confrontation with them. She is then sent to Minnesota to another family where she settles in quite happily and makes friends. The reader must keep in mind the times that this story is taking place. Existentialism, counterculturism, and other “isms” were a major influence, and thus caused more confusion for Sachiko than one might expect between cultures. When Sachiko falls in love, this very influence affects her deeply and as her love story plays out we see how much confusion, drama and trauma came out of this decade. This book never loses its focus and is a wonderful look at life in diverse cultures and mores. I would certainly recommend this book to both young people and adults. It is life as it was, fully captured, the book could have gone off on various tangents but sticks to its own truth. I most heartily congratulate the author on a beautiful slice of life. 4 1/2 stars