GARDEN OF STONES – Sophie Littlefield
MIRA (Trade Paperback)
20th Century Historical Fiction
Los Angeles, Manzanar Relocation Center, California, 1941, and San Francisco, 1978
1978: In San Francisco, a man is killed. Across town, Patty Takeda is preparing for her upcoming wedding. But when the police question her mother about the murder, Patty knows she has to find out what the connection is between the dead man and her parent. Her mother will never tell her, so Patty decides to do a little snooping into Lucy's past.
1941: Lucy Takeda's early years were spent growing up in Los Angeles. Her Japanese father owned a thriving business, and as an only daughter, Lucy had the best of everything money could buy. WWII and the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese bring terrible changes to Lucy's life. Overnight, the Takeda family and the local Japanese community are thrown into turmoil. Government men wearing black suits walk into homes, uninvited, and take the men away. Lucy's father dies of a heart attack, and she and her mother, Miyako, are suddenly alone and unprotected. Beautiful and delicate, Miyako is prone to periods of depression and manic episodes, and without her husband, it falls to fourteen-year-old Lucy to take care of her. Almost overnight, they are forced to sell their home, pack a few meager necessities into boxes, and board a train bound for a relocation camp.
Not far from a small town named Manzanar, deep in the desert of Owens Valley, California, over ten thousand Japanese are relocated to a bare and dusty camp consisting of barbed wire and wooden barracks. Forced to live with other families in the same drafty building, with only thin walls giving them a semblance of privacy and a communal stove for heat, Lucy and Miyako begin their new life. Lucy finds a job delivering mail and meets a young man, Jessie Kadanoda, who becomes her constant companion. Amid harsh conditions and unsanitary facilities, Lucy's job is the only thing that keeps her sane. Her mother finds work sewing camouflage netting, but as the days go by, Lucy watches her mother slide deeper and deeper into her depression. When Lucy decides to follow Miyako, she is horrified at what she learns. The men responsible for guarding the prisoners are taking extreme liberties that force Lucy and Miyako into a situation where there is no way out.
GARDEN OF STONES is a moving tale of the wartime mistakes that affected an entire ethnic population of our country, many who were born right here in the United States, not in Japan. Ms. Littlefield has penned a remarkable and stunning novel that brings Lucy's story alive with vivid historical and palpable emotion. (Note: If you are interested in learning more about Manzanar, visit the California State Park website.)
GARDEN OF STONES is a wonderful novel! The characters are vibrant, the narrative and the dialogue sparkles. We watch Lucy move from her privileged upbringing into the horrors of Manzanar as the story plays out against the background of WWII and the rigors of prejudice. Chapters alternate and move forward into 1978, where Lucy's daughter Patty finds photos and documents that give her a glimpse into her mother's horrific past. This complex story has many secrets to be revealed, but even though the book is quite long, it reads quickly, and I guarantee you will not put it down until the final page. Surprises at the end bring all the pages together into a delightful novel you will keep for your collection!