WHAT THE SCARECROW SAID by Stewart David Ikeda


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 A Japanese-American's experience in a WW II internment camp offers both insight and a bit of melodrama--a combination that provides mostly favorable results. In the last year of the war, California horticulturist William Fujita finds himself on a barren hill farm in Massachusetts. He has lost everything: his thriving nursery in Pasadena, his mother, even his wife and only child, who have died in one of the internment camps into which Japanese-Americans have been herded. Fujita's future seems as bleak now as this farmland called Widow's Peak. Requested for his horticultural skills, Fujita has been released from a camp in Arizona in order to plan and create a working farm on widow Margaret Kelly's land. She and neighbor Livvie Tufteller, a recent widow herself, decide to combine property, and the three make an easy alliance to bring the land back to life, though not without town opposition to the presence of the ``enemy.'' Through flashbacks, the history of Fujita's life is traced, from his difficult beginnings in segregated turn-of-the-century Los Angeles to his later prosperity and (briefly) happy family life. Ikeda describes with vivid detail the anger, confusion, and helplessness the Fujita family experience as Japanese-Americans are rounded up and forced into camps. Back on the farm Fujita slowly claims Margaret and Livvie, and Livvie's small boy Garvin, as a new sort of family, and the prospering farm serves as a symbol (if a rather weighty one) of renewal after the war. Despite a rather simplistic wrapping-up of lives (extended to included the future lives of all the characters), this is a solid exploration of difficult times--a first novel that is never so weighed down by politics as to overshadow the importance of the personal stories at its center. ($35,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: June 5th, 1996
ISBN: 0-06-039164-2
Page count: 464pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996