How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway – Mini Review

How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway
Published by Putnam Adult, an imprint of Penguin

So I adored this book, but I borrowed it from the library in January and never wrote my review, and since then I read another book, Picking Bones from Ash by Marie Mockett, that also involves multiple generations of Japanese/Japanese-American women, including a daughter returning to Japan. Long story short, I no longer have enough to say about this book to give it an actual review. However, I do want to share it with you, because I felt that if I do not, I will be doing you a disservice. So let me just say I really enjoyed Dilloway’s writing and storytelling, and I thought she handled the voices of the different women very well.

Now, let me just leave you with the publisher’s description:

How to Be an American Housewife is a novel about mothers and daughters, and the pull of tradition. It tells the story of Shoko, a Japanese woman who married an American GI, and her grown daughter, Sue, a divorced mother whose life as an American housewife hasn’t been what she’d expected. When illness prevents Shoko from traveling to Japan, she asks Sue to go in her place. The trip reveals family secrets that change their lives in dramatic and unforeseen ways. Offering an entertaining glimpse into American and Japanese family lives and their potent aspirations, this is a warm and engaging novel full of unexpected insight.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Picking Bones from Ash by Marie Mockett – Book Review

Picking Bones from Ash by Marie Matsuki Mockett
Published by Graywolf Press

Life is not easy for a single woman and her daughter in post-war Japan. Satomi and her mother are making a living, but Atsuko’s presence as a smart, engaging, unmarried woman is seen as threat to the other women in their small, rural community. As such, Atsuko and Satomi were always made to feel as outsiders, a situation that was perhaps not helped by Satomi’s status as a musical prodigy. Atsuko is determined that Satomi’s life will be richer and more fulfilling than her own has been, discouraging her from a domestic future in favor of a life that will incorporate Satomi’s artistic abilities. When the unexpected happens, however, Satomi must learn how to make a new life for herself, because the life she has known is gone. The story picks up again with Satomi’s daughter Rumi living in San Francisco, having never known the mother she believes is dead. As new people come into Rumi’s life, however, she finds herself forced to examine her past and learn about the mother who has always been notable only in her absence.

Picking Bones from Ash is a lovely story of identity, family, and fitting in, among other things. The title comes a passage – relatively early in the book, this really isn’t a spoiler – after Atsuko passes away in Satomi’s absence:

I had missed my mother’s cremation and so had not been present when Mineko, Chieko, and the rest of their family had stood around her still-hot remains to remove her bones from the ash. They would have used chopsticks to do this, culling only the most essential parts of her body and placing them inside an urn, which was then set inside a box. – p. 98

Not knowing anything about funerary practices in Japan, I found this passage both shocking and beautiful. The thought of a family gathering around the remains of a loved one and doing something so intensely personal as picking out the bones with chopsticks is somewhat mind boggling, but at the same time, what better way to reiterate the loving bond of family, that you take care of one another even after death. And yet, if this is your own mother, one who you loved dearly, how heartbreaking to have missed such a ritual, to have it attended to only by your stepsisters and their families.

The place of women in the world over the last 50 years, the relationships between mother and daughter and their effect on the relationships of the next generation, the interaction of East and West. Add these things to a compelling story and sympathetic characters and you have a great novel. You also have Picking Bones from Ash by Marie Mockett. Recommended.

We will be discussing Picking Bones from Ash on March 22, 2011 at Linus’s Blanket.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, for BOOK CLUB.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.


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