A shameful episode of U.S. history, the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II, is revisited, this time as experienced by an alienated Japanese-American teenager.
The problem for Satomi Baker, the heroine of British writer Lindley’s (The Private Papers of an Eastern Jewel, 2009) second novel, is that there are no other girls like her. Born of an American father and a second-generation Japanese-American mother, living in a small Californian rural community, she is a misfit: smart, popular enough, attractive to boys, but adrift somewhere between her mother Tamura’s submissive charm and her father Aaron’s jealous aggression. The time is the early 1940s; anti-Japanese feeling is rising, and when Aaron, a naval volunteer, is killed at Pearl Harbor, it’s not hard to imagine the fate of the Baker women. Rounded up along with all the other Americans of full or partial Japanese ancestry, they are interned in a remote mountain camp where the harsh, unsanitary conditions intensify both Satomi’s anger and Tamura’s ill health. Yet sustaining friendships are made there, relationships which will help Satomi when her mother eventually succumbs to tuberculosis. After the war, the girl moves to New York, where events turn more fairy tale–like. Money and love enter the mix, and acceptance eventually arrives, at a price.
Plotting turns mushy toward the end, but this is an empathetic story, delicately told, tailor-made for reading groups.