The Translation of Love

The Translation of Love

A Novel

Book - 2016
Average Rating:
6
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An emotionally gripping portrait of postwar Japan, where a newly repatriated girl must help a classmate find her missing sister

After spending the war years in a Canadian internment camp, thirteen-year-old Aya Shimamura and her father are faced with a gut-wrenching choice: move east of the Rocky Mountains or go "back" to Japan. Barred from returning home to the West Coast and bitterly grieving the loss of Aya's mother during internment, Aya's father signs a form that enables the government to deport them.
But war-devastated Tokyo is not much better. Aya's father struggles to find work, compromising his morals and toiling long hours. Meanwhile, Aya, born and raised in Vancouver, is something of a pariah at her school, bullied for being foreign and paralyzed when asked to communicate in Japanese. Aya's alienation is eventually mitigated by one of her principal tormenters, a willful girl named Fumi Tanaka, whose older sister has mysteriously disappeared.
When a rumor surfaces that General MacArthur, who is overseeing the Occupation, might help citizens in need, Fumi enlists Aya to compose a letter asking him to find her beloved sister. The letter is delivered into the reluctant hands of Corporal Matt Matsumoto, a Japanese American serving with the Occupation forces, whose endless job is translating the thousands of letters MacArthur receives
each week. Although Matt feels an affinity with Fumi, he is largely powerless, and the girls decide to take matters into their own hands, venturing into the dark and dangerous underside of Tokyo's Ginza district.
Told through rich, interlocking story lines, The Translation of Love mines this turbulent period to show how war irrevocably shapes the lives of people on both sides--and yet the novel also allows for a poignant spark of resilience, friendship, and love that translates across cultures and borders to stunning effect.

Publisher: Toronto : , Alfred A. Knopf Canada,, c2016
Edition: First United States edition
ISBN: 9780345809377
Branch Call Number: FIC Kuts
Characteristics: 318 pages

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SuzeParker
Oct 28, 2016

This was, for me, a book that never fulfilled its promise. I got a sense of reporting: this happened, these people did this, etc., but I never felt enough emotion from any incident in the book to connect with the characters. It felt like I was dropping into their lives in piecemeal fashion, with little to unify one experience with another.

If the author's intention was to show the characters' emotional distance from the very difficult experiences they encountered, she achieved it. Unfortunately, this left me feeling lackluster about everything that occurred.

I added a star for solid writing and a topic -- the situation faced by Japanese expats in Canada after World War II -- that I had never read about previously.

1
1_Great_Book
Oct 27, 2016

Well developed plot with a bit of intrigue.
Realistic characters.
Sisterly bonds, best friends and caring for others despite harsh conditions speak to the heart.
While I don't particularly care for standard WWII subject matter, this is original from the point of view of occupied Japan.
Will definitely welcome more writing by Kutsukake!

j
JBarringer
Sep 24, 2016

This is a great story about life in Japan during the American occupation following WW2. In this book a girl from the US who has moved back to Japan with her father, fleeing discrimination in the US, befriends a new classmate whose older sister has gone missing. They decide to find the missing sister themselves after official channels prove ineffective.

e
Eil_1
Aug 04, 2016

A well-written book. However, apart from Aya and Fumi, some of the other characters superficially portrayed. Fumi's sister, Sumiko, was realistic and I enjoyed the girls' search for her.

f
furlan
Jul 18, 2016

I enjoyed this book. The theme - post WW11 Japan with the American occupation- - was new to me and I don't think it has been a popular one for fiction writers. It is well written and the characters are sympathetic .

KateHillier May 23, 2016

If this is a debut I am excited to see what comes next. You may think this is a simple story (younger sister wants to find younger sister) wrapped in historical fiction (post WWII Japan) but it's more than that. Fumi wants to find her sister so she decides to write General MacArthur to help her. To write a letter in English she befriends Aya, the new Canadian student who has arrived with her father who chose 'return to Japan' instead of never being able to go back to British Columbia again. Why would General MacArthur care about one missing girl among countless others?

There's love involved here but translation of it in more than just the literal sense. That's whether it's between family members, GIs and their Japanese girlfriends, or friends. There are multiple narrative, connecting storylines, and it is wonderful to see them all come together in the way that it does.

I read this in basically one sitting while at the cottage. It was awesome.

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