Garden of Stones
Review Copy Courtesy of Netgalley and Harlequin
Lucy Takeda is just fourteen years old, living in Los Angeles in 1941, when the bombs rain down on Pearl Harbor. Within weeks, she and her mother, Miyako, are ripped from their home, rounded up—along with thousands of other innocent Japanese-Americans—and taken to the Manzanar prison camp. Buffeted by blistering heat and choking dust, Lucy and Miyako must endure the harsh living conditions of the camp. Corruption and abuse creep into every corner of Manzanar, eventually ensnaring beautiful, vulnerable Miyako. Ruined and unwilling to surrender her daughter to the same fate, Miyako soon breaks. Her final act of desperation will stay with Lucy forever...and spur her to sins of her own.
I was a huge fan of Sophie Littlefield’s Aftertime trilogy and while the historical setting of Garden of Stones is completely different to post-civilisation zombie-invested world, the strong writing and involving characters remains constant. The story is split between the teenaged Lucy, the daughter of two Japanese immigrants shortly after Pearl Harbour and Lucy’s daughter, Patty in the late seventies finding out that there might be more to her mother than she thought.
As a teenager Lucy is very young and naive. Her mother struggles with manic depression and as such Lucy feels the need to take care of her. This is complicated by the fact that all those with Japanese ancestry are rounded up into internment camps. I’m British and this was a big surprise to me as I wasn’t aware that happened in America – it even raises some disturbing parallels to the early concentration camps (although thankfully it doesn’t go to that extreme). The way in which the guards and staff take advantage of others is disturbing and horrifying. Lucy’s experiences are heartbreaking and would have a huge impact on her life.
One of the major themes of the book is mothers and daughters as Lucy’s relationships with her own mother is examined in detail and how her mother tries her best to protect her despite the consequences. Patty then realises there is a lot her mother has been trying to protect her from other the years and there is a slow reveal of Lucy’s secrets. The whole story reminds you that while Lucy is mother, she is also a person outside that single relationship. While the elements set in the camp are stronger, the story needs Lucy’s recovery as a chambermaid to balance her experiences and bring her back to life again.
The writing is melodic and hypnotising. I was just swept along and struggled to drag my eyes away from the pages. I just adore Sophie’s style and was swept up into Lucy’s life. Usually when I read historical novels I approach them as fiction first but this felt so recent and well researched I almost felt like it was real and wanted to give Lucy a hug. An emotionally moving story set in a fascinating period of American history – high recommended.
Recommended for fans of Jojo Moyes and Philippa Gregory. 9 out of 10