Strengths: An aspect of history I wasn’t familiar with and some thought provoking questions are asked about what lengths someone will go to for their family.
Weaknesses: I felt like I was jumping in at the deep end at the start – who are these people?
Why I read it: Sent to me by Harlequin – thank you!
Pages: 287 (plus interview with author and reading group questions)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Garden of Stones is a different book to what I was expecting from the cover – and I mean that in a good way. I thought the book would be about a mother with a young daughter struggling in an internment camp. While the book does highlight the struggles of Lucy (a teenager, older than the girl on the cover) and her mother, this story is a gripping, heart wrenching one of love and sacrifice. There are scenes that will cause you to gasp in horror, shake your head in disgust at brutal cruelty and weep at the power of love.
Garden of Stones has a dual narrative (fast becoming one of my favourite types of reads) and Littlefield executes it beautifully. We see Lucy Takeda and her mother Miyako forced to abandon their home for the Manzanar internment camp. This world is different to what either of them have known. While Lucy adapts somewhat, making friends and getting a part time job, Miyako becomes depressed. Later she is forced to do things that she can never share with Lucy, nor does she want Lucy to suffer a similar fate.
In 1978, Lucy’s daughter, Patty is getting ready for her wedding when police inform her that her mother is a potential suspect in a murder case. The dead man was a guard at Manzanar, but Patty knows little about this life. Little by little, Lucy’s story is revealed.
I haven’t read a book before that dealt with the Japanese-American view of World War II. Littlefield portrays their awkward position very well – they are American, but being treated as the enemy. It is a grim period of history that should be talked about more so the same mistakes are not repeated. Manzanar is described in great detail – from the streets to the tiny gardens offering a sense of normality in cold, bare living conditions.
This story also asks the question – how far would you go for your daughter – or for your mother? Lucy, Miyako and Patty all make great sacrifices in an attempt to protect their loved one. In Miyako’s case, it was somewhat extreme (I’m not going to spoil the scene) but it does ask – where do you draw the line? Were there other options?
Despite the bleakness of the setting and the severity of the subject matter, Littlefield writes characters that are easy to relate to and empathise with. Lucy, the main character, is someone I felt very sympathetic to given the struggles she had faced in her young life at Manzanar and afterwards. Patty seemed to be more of a product of the 1970s – she was lighter and more casual, but still had a backbone of steel when it mattered. Don’t we all when it comes to family?
There are also happy, loving moments in this novel and the overall feeling of love was strong. I enjoyed this book (reading late into the night) and was surprised to see that Littlefield has written very different genres prior to this! She’s a natural at this kind of historical fiction.