Losing Kei: A Novel ペーパーバック – 2008/1/16
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A young American mother living in Japan fights impossible odds to be reunited with her child.
Jill Parker is an American artist living in a remote village on the coast of Japan making ends meet as a hostess at a waterfront bar when she meets Yusuke, an art gallery owner who believes in her talent. As their affair leads to marriage Jill is convinced that her life has finally opened to real love, a measure of recognition for her work, and a family connection with her beautiful but enigmatic adopted country. Instead she becomes trapped in a domestic nightmare. Under the iron-handed oversight of Okasan, Yusuke's cold tradition-bound mother, Jill is expected to master the 'womanly arts' and sacrifice herself to her husband's pleasure and the family's honor. The long anticipated birth of a beautiful baby boy, only serves to affirm her insignificance in the eyes of the family. Divorce is the only way out but according to Japan's unforgiving laws, a foreigner has no rights to custody and Jill is expected to disappear and leave her child behind.
As with a lot of other novels by ex-pat writers, personal peeves about Japan abound. In fact, I suspect that's what drives people to write about Japan more than anything -- to vent at the wacky society we live in here. Can't say I blame them for doing it -- I'll probably join that party at some point before I leave Japan myself.
In the first half of the book, her pet peeves are mixed in with plenty of "Wow, isn't Japan strange" stereotypes. The review on the cover by a fellow writer says that "Suzanne Kamata deftly explores the contours" of the Japanese family. "Deftly"....hmmm...not the word I'd choose to describe her writing. I think the reviewer must be a friend of hers.
Having said that, while her treatment of all-things-Japanese is a bit in-your-face, it is quite accurate. And I would recommend this book to anybody who is thinking of coming to Japan so that they know in advance to leave their rose tinted glasses back in their home country.
In spite of the troubled start, I pressed on. Then, about 3/4 of the way into the book, the story suddenly starts to grab you. After pages and pages of reading about the pathetic whining of an ex-pat bar hostess, you suddenly see the heroine take control and power over her own life. And from the time she starts to plan how she will get her son back, I didn't put the book down. The ending was realistic and quite satisfying.
Although I wish Kamata had found her groove in this book earlier on, I'm glad I read it.
I don't know why I even finished this book. I really didn't care whether she got Kei back or not.