McKendry’s debut memoir begins with recollections of a childhood in Japan before shifting focus to her new life in the Midwest with her American husband.
The author opens with traumatic memories of her alcoholic father beating her mother. But her childhood wasn’t entirely unhappy; McKendry shares several pleasant recollections, like enjoying the apple pie her father purchased for her 10th birthday. The story continues in chronological order: learning English at school, meeting and marrying husband David—an American stationed at an Air Force base in Tokyo—and her subsequent immigration to the United States. Shortly after their arrival, McKendry gives birth to two sons; this, however, doesn’t stop her from pursuing her education and ultimately earning her MBA. She climbs the ranks at Chrysler, detailing her career there with a lengthy chapter. There are setbacks along the way—financial troubles, a debilitating car accident—but, ultimately, McKendry’s story is one of success. The author’s exhaustive research into Japanese–American relations, dating back to the late 1800s, sets this memoir apart from similar titles. She contextualizes not only her own experiences, but those of her ancestors. As some readers might presume, one of the reasons the author delves into her history is to discover what turned her father into an abusive alcoholic. Precise explanations of cultural differences—“doing everything quietly, so as not to disturb others, is considered good manners”—are enlightening and engaging. Most effective, however, is the author’s ability to speak both affectionately and critically—though never negatively—about her native country.
A somewhat inspiring memoir and a thank-you note to the author’s adopted homeland.