How to Be an American Housewife is a novel about mothers and daughters and the pull of tradition. It tells the story of Shoko, a Japanese woman who married an American GI, and her grown daughter, Sue, a divorced mother whose life as an American housewife hasn't been what she'd expected. When illness prevents Shoko from traveling to Japan, she asks Sue to go in her place. The trip reveals family secrets that change their lives in dramatic and unforeseen ways.
Offering an entertaining glimpse into American and Japanese family lives and their potent aspirations, this is a warm and engaging novel full of unexpected insight.
Life as a newlywed can be complicated enough but for Shoko, a young Japanese woman who moves to California with her American military husband after World War II, the challenges a new language, different customs, unknown traditions are even greater. In How to Be an American Housewife, Margaret Dalloway traces Shoko’s journey from her youth as a pretty girl in Japan who’s in love with a boy from the wrong social class to her old age as an ailing mother of two, still struggling to make peace with her past. Narrator Laural Merlington brings Shoko to life with the pitch-perfect accent of a native Japanese speaker relying on years of careful, practiced English, and gives Shoko’s simple stories a showdown with her child’s teacher, tea with a neighbor, the first time she makes spaghetti an emotional depth based on years of passion, pain, and secrets.
As an old woman, Shoko is driven to make one last trip to Japan to reconcile with the family she hasn’t spoken to in decades, but when her health prevents her from traveling, she convinces her daughter, Sue, to take her place. Though Shoko and Sue (like most mothers and daughters) have a lifetime of misunderstandings between them, Sue’s trip to Japan allows her to see her mother in a whole new way, and draws the entire family closer together. Narrator Emily Durante, as Sue, brings a set of familiar feelings to the performance frustration, disbelief, and eventual understanding among them. The title of the book comes from a manual that Shoko receives upon her arrival in the U.S., which offers tips on everything from submitting to your husband’s religion to making homemade pasta sauce and the excerpts from the book that open each chapter show just how many sacrifices young war brides made to fit into their new lives. But while the culture clashes never go away entirely, the novel shows that the relationship between a mother and daughter can find a way to overcome them. Blythe Copeland
"Dilloway splits her narrative gracefully between mother and daughter (giving Shoko the first half, Sue the second), making a beautifully realized whole." (Publishers Weekly)
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Well told tale!
If you like family sagas this one is right up there. If you enjoy Oriental tales, this is for you.
Accents were great.