I love historical fiction and I'm always on the lookout for new authors and titles to read. The Woman in the White Kimono was a happy surprise, a debut novel by an author I'm hoping to hear more from.
This novel moves between the present day and 1957/58, weaving together two stories.
In the present day, Tori is caring for her dying father and finds a letter that he asks her to read in order to really understand who he is. Although she reads it, she is left with more questions about her father and wants to find the woman who sent her dad this letter.
The story line in the 1950s centers around Naoko Nakamura, a seventeen year old girl who has fallen in love with an American sailor. The two are young and naive and believe that eventually Naoko's family will accept him, despite the fact that anti-American sentiments are everywhere, just a decade after WWII ended. Things are not easy for this young couple and it appears there is no way for them to make a life together.
More of this novel is set in the past, with chapters in the present interspersed as Tori eventually visits Japan herself to look for the woman her father once loved.
This book is so easy to read and become absorbed in, and I found myself turning pages rapidly, wanting Tori to find her father's first love. I also appreciated the wisdom Naoki shared at book's end as Tori tried to make peace with choices her father made.
The historical setting is also important; once again I find myself learning so much from historical fiction novels. Part of the novel is set at a home for unwed mothers, sent there by their families because of the shame they would bring them if allowed to remain at home. The idea of the Japanese killing innocent babies because of the fact that their fathers were American is one I had never considered, nor had I thought about the way the American were perceived by the Japanese after World War II. Johns' novel definitely opened my eyes to another piece of history I was unaware of.