Second World War romance between a southern spinster and a Japanese gardener, by the author of Praise Jerusalem! (not reviewed), etc.
Everyone in Salty Creek, Georgia, knows that taking care of her demanding, widowed mother and her crotchety maiden aunts left Sophie Willis no chance to marry. Though the town busybody is certain that she had a beau or two years ago, Sophie leads a quiet life now, painting watercolors and calling on other ladies. Then a Greyhound bus, the deus ex machina of so many southern tales, brings Mr. Oto to Salty Creek. Half-starved, sick, and delirious, he's nursed back to health by the doctor’s wife Eulalie and taken in by Miss Anne, who lets him live in a small cabin behind her house in exchange for gardening. Soon Mr. Oto has transformed the weedy yard into a verdant paradise and fallen in love with Sophie, who stops by to observe his progress. He’s ashamed to tell anyone how he ended up so far from his California home: When his aged father sent him, a man past 50, to New York with insultingly careful instructions to bring back his aunt, poor Mr. Oto lost all his money to street hustlers who beat him up, although he did find someone else’s bus ticket. The lonely man’s dreams of Sophie and visions of a huge crane, the Japanese symbol of marital fidelity and happiness, assure him Sophie is his one and only. She in turn is inexorably drawn to him—until the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, and Mr. Oto knows he must leave. Miss Anne hides him in a cabin down by the river, where he and Sophie consummate their forbidden passion in chastely lyrical prose. A hurricane threatens, and so does the town busybody, who delights in making trouble, especially for Sophie. But love conquers all.
Fussbudget style sinks a well-meaning romancer.