Titel: The Strangeness of Beauty: A Novel
Verlag: Simon & Schuster
Zustand: Very Good
Zustand des Schutzumschlags: Dust Jacket Included
Auflage: 1st Edition
Über diesen Titel
When Etsuko Sone's sister dies in childbirth in Seattle's shabby Japantown, love for the precocious child catapults Etsuko back across the Pacific and into the austere samurai household of her mysterious mother, Chie, a woman who rejected her at birth. The dubious reconciliation is for the sake of the little Hanae, that she might learn her Fuji heritage and the Zen lessons of humility, dignity, self-discipline, and grace. In Japan, Etsuko is the ultimate outsider: a returning emigrant in a land she left years before; a common woman thrust into a house of secrets and riches; a childless mother and a motherless daughter. As Etsuko and Hanae do their often quite comic best to adapt to life within Chie's samurai household, Japan is changing in dangerous ways. Worldwide economic strife strips Japan's people of food and clothing even as wartime preparations strip them of information and freedoms. Chie and Etsuko greet the mounting militarism with resistance, and when the imperial army cuts cruelly into Chinese Manchuria, accusations of treachery, of antipatriotism, begin to rain on the Fuji household. It is then that the women realise their separate independence is their common bond. It is then that Etsuko finds hidden strength to pursue meaning and beauty in a situation beyond her control.Review:
At first blush, Lydia Minatoya's novel The Strangeness of Beauty would seem to be pretty standard fare: three generations of Japanese women struggle to understand and love one another. Sounds like generic women's fiction, but in Minatoya's hands, it becomes something quietly distinctive. Minatoya has a taste for the in-between. In this, her first novel, mothers are not mothers, Americans are Japanese, and warriors are pacifists.
Etsuko and her sister Naomi move with their respective husbands from Kobe to Seattle in the 1920s. When Naomi dies in childbirth, the widowed Etsuko becomes the baby's surrogate mother. The two return to Japan, where the girl, Hanae, can receive the education in subtleties that is her heritage as a member of a samurai family. The young American girl finds the chores and trials of samurai life enraging. "Take sweeping the garden path with a light bamboo broom: the point isn't just to clear off debris. Designed to develop dedication and spiritual depth, the real task is in repeating the activity--morning and dusk, over and over, for decades--until she learns to leave light, flowing impressions on the soft surface earth."
Just as patiently, Etsuko and Hanae must learn the secrets of their family. There's quite a bit of familial breast-beating, sure, but it's leavened by the perspective of Etsuko, a bumbling, sweet-tempered antiheroine of a narrator. The book comes alive as the two women, trapped in the liminal state of exile, neither American nor Japanese, learn to wrest the best from both worlds. As Japan teeters on the brink of war, Etsuko and Hanae apply their samurai-warrior sense of honor to fighting for peace. Minatoya (author of the acclaimed memoir Talking to High Monks in the Snow) never settles for black or white. She always strives for that more difficult place: the gray area. --Claire Dederer
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