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I thought that the potential of the continuation of the story in Madam Butterfly was wonderful. Sadly, in my opinion, this attempt falls short. The characters are flat and their motivations unclear; their actions don't ring true. The charismatic (but dastardly) Pinkerton, a swashbuckling sailor with a girl in every port, returns to be a farmer in the midwest? And then goes back to Japan with his American wife...for what? He doesn't even know about Benji. All of the characters behave "out of character" much of the time. I didn't feel that I knew them. Benji seems to have warm feelings for his grandmother later in the book, but she seemed harshly unaccepting of him early in the narrative; he harbors much animosity toward his father, who, though strict and harsh at times, seemed to genuinely care for the boy when he first arrived at the farm. The final plot twist is surely interesting, but I did see it coming early on. Hard to believe what happened to the cat.
This book would have been better narrated by a male voice; the female narrator's voice was too full of sunshine and optimism for this story and felt geared to a young audience. A perfect narrator for Little House on the Prairie. For instance, it gets comical when she recounts Benji's romps with prostitutes. I could never think of Benji as anything but a boy, even after he'd grown up and married and had a child. In addition, her exaggeratedly correct enunciation of Japanese words wears thin, similar to the local news or weather folk who trill their R's when encountering a Spanish word in an otherwise English newscast.
This is a beautifully written story and one well worth the credit!
I believe teachers will one day use this book as an example of the
damage done to others with thoughtless behavior and how it can reverberate
through time causing great difficulties, all this and wrapped in the gift of a story I would not have wanted to miss. It is so much more!