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THE BASEBALL WIDOW

An uneven but often affecting tale of an American woman and her Japanese family.

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In Kamata’s novel, three characters navigate love, baseball, and the cultural space between the United States and Japan.

Christine, an American,came to Japan in 1988 hoping to improve people’s lives by teaching them English. After a discouraging time volunteering in a refugee camp in Thailand, she returned to Japan to marry her boyfriend, Hideki Yamada. Now they live in Tokushima Prefecture with their two children, 5-year-old Koji and 6-year-old Emma, the latter of whom suffers from multiple disabilities. Hideki works as a high school baseball coach, while Christine raises the kids at home. She’s a “baseball widow,” rarely seeing her spouse, who’s consumed by his desire to bring his team to the national championship. Christine is so overwhelmed and lonely that she jumps at the chance to take her kids to the States for a few months—and it’s possible that she won’t come back. Meanwhile, teenage power hitter Daisuke Uchida, born in Japan but raised in Atlanta, may be just what Hideki needs to make his team a contender. Daisuke’s acclimation to Japanese society isn’t the smoothest, but his budding relationship with fellow student Nana Takai gives him a very good reason to stick around. Kamata’s prose is direct and elegant, as when Christine and Emma run into Daisuke’s mother at a video store: “She wondered if the mothers of Hideki’s players knew that Coach Yamada had a disabled child. If not, they’d probably know by tomorrow. Word traveled fast.” The Christine-centered sections are particularly engrossing, as they explore the everyday life of an immigrant in Japan with a Japanese family and the experience of raising a disabled child with little help from an absent spouse. The sections that focus on Hideki are less dynamic, although their depiction of the world of Japanese baseball will be fun for those who are unfamiliar. Daisuke’s storyline feels less relevant to Kamata’s work, and the novel as a whole doesn’t quite cohere into a balanced narrative. As a slice-of-life story, however, it has much to offer.

An uneven but often affecting tale of an American woman and her Japanese family.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-95-433207-2

Page Count: 274

Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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THIS SUMMER WILL BE DIFFERENT

A steamy, romantic summer read with a charming setting.

A florist attempts to avoid her best friend’s brother—and their powerful chemistry—on Prince Edward Island.

When Lucy Ashby visits her best friend Bridget’s family home on Prince Edward Island for the first time, Bridget gives her three rules: Eat your weight in oysters….Leave the city behind. And, most importantly, Don’t fall in love with my brother. Unfortunately for Lucy, she sleeps with Felix basically the second her plane lands, unaware that he’s Bridget’s brother until it’s too late. Lucy has never felt understood or accepted by her immediate family, and Bridget is one of the very few people she allows into her inner circle, so Lucy’s desperate to abide by these rules. And so she and Felix try to avoid each other on every one of Lucy’s visits to PEI over the years. And, of course, they fail spectacularly, always returning to each other when they’re in between relationships. But it’s never been anything serious…Lucy makes sure of that, backing off whenever her emotions feel too strong. In her “real life” back in Toronto, it’s easier for Lucy to avoid thinking of Felix as she runs a busy floral shop, working herself into the ground. But when Bridget asks Lucy to come to PEI for an emergency girls’ trip less than two weeks before Bridget is supposed to get married, Lucy drops everything to be there for her best friend. She doesn’t expect to find Felix there, along with feelings that are stronger and more difficult than ever to ignore. Even more than jeopardizing her relationship with Bridget, Lucy is afraid that giving in to her feelings could ruin the life she’s worked so hard to build. Fortune, the author of hits like Every Summer After (2022), gives readers another refreshingly summery story full of angst, romance, and sex scenes aplenty. The PEI setting is a beautiful backdrop for Lucy and Felix’s secret hookups and Lucy’s journey of self-discovery as she learns how to stand on her own two feet as a business owner, friend, and daughter. In addition to frequent (and welcome) Anne of Green Gables references, there are oysters galore and many sandy, windy scenes that transport readers straight to the island.

A steamy, romantic summer read with a charming setting.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780593638880

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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