ONCE REMOVED by Mako Yoshikawa

ONCE REMOVED

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A reserved second outing by Yoshikawa (One Hundred and One Ways, 1999), filled with regret and recriminations, about two stepsisters reunited.

After a 17-year-long separation and silence, Claudia is both overjoyed and troubled when stepsister Rei contacts her. Rei is moving to Boston, so the two will be together again, but Claudia wants to know why Rei disappeared in the first place. When Claudia was nine, her kind but plodding father Henry shocked everyone by quickly divorcing Claudia’s mother to marry Hana, a Japanese widow he met at the hardware store. Claudia (who spent weekends with her father’s new family) and Rei became sisters in the truest sense of the word, thinking of each other as twins, wondering how anyone could tell them apart. Though she hated Hana for dissolving her family (and still does), Claudia was spellbound by the stories Rei told, fairy tales involving Hana and the crown prince of Japan, about Hana the dedicated young artist, about Hana and America. Now that Rei is back, cagey and unwilling to talk about the skin cancer that nearly killed her, Claudia is revisited by images of Hana. Always fascinated by the woman who stole her father, Claudia feels she is now truly her stepmother’s child since she herself is having an affair with a married man. Claudia and Vikram have been devoted to each other for the past two years, but his traditional family won’t allow for divorce, especially with his two children so young. The irony is not lost on Claudia, but her intractable dislike for Hana remains. Though a bit splintered in its focus, the final revelations—why Hana abandoned Henry after eight years of blissful marriage, why Hana became obsessed with painting mushrooms, why Hana eventually takes all responsibility for Rei’s cancer—serve less as compulsory climax than as simple extensions of the stories Rei has been telling Claudia all their lives about the mysterious and unknowable Hana.

A quiet, meditative tale about devotion in its many forms.

Pub Date: June 3rd, 2003
ISBN: 0-553-80155-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2003