Published by Viking on March 12th 2013
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I’ll be honest…I was bored with this book in the beginning. I kept putting it aside to read other books. I was in a mystery reading phase and I think I just could not find my rhythm with this book. Ever read a book that everyone seems to love and you are scratching your head, wondering if you are actually reading the same book because you just don’t get it? That is what I experienced when I first picked up this book. It took a little over 100 pages into the book, before I really began to enjoy it.
What I liked was that both Ruth and Nao both felt discord with their surroundings. Nao was born and raised for 12 years in California. Then her family moves back to Japan when her father loses his job. Nao identifies herself as being American and has a very hard time adjusting to living in Japan.
Ruth, who once lived in the city, is now living in the pacific northwest in a community where people like to drop in whenever they feel like it. Both females feel out of their element. However, it is really Nao who is in culture shock. Nao feels like an outsider. She is tormented and bullied at school while her father sinks deeper into depression and disappears for hours at end. Nao contemplates suicide as an end for her troubles (as does her father).
Ruth is a novelist living on a small island who finds a hello kitty lunchbox one day. Inside the lunchbox is a journal written by Nao. Feeling isolated on the small island, Ruth feels a connection to Nao. She attempts to learn as much as she can about Nao in order to find her in order to determine if Nao is alive and well.
I felt as if this book could use some editing. It felt very long to me. One thing I did appreciate was the footnotes as several japanese words were used and I did not know the meaning. I also enjoyed the section of letters where Nao finds her family’s connection to WWII (having letter from a great uncle who was a kamikaze pilot).
This book goes back and forth in time telling both women’s tale. WE also learn about Nao’s 104 year Buddhist Nun grandmother. For me, I wished the book would have been more about Nao. When two stories are told, I usually enjoy one more than the other and I enjoyed Nao’s story much more. Having said that, her story is sad because of the horrible bullying she endured not to mention the video taken in the rest room and posted online. I found Ruth’s story to bog down the meatiness of Nao’s story.