How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway is the latest selection for the BlogHer Book Club. It's a story about forgiveness, perserverence, understanding, examining your life and following your dreams.
All the things I love to write about!
Dilloway draws on her own family history to weave this tale of Shoko, a Japanese War Bride who comes to America with her Navy man husband, Charlie, after World War II, hoping for a new life but facing prejudice and ostracism. Her husband gives her a book, more of a manual, I guess, to help her adjust - How to Be an American Housewife.
The story begins in Shoko's 60-something voice describing her yearning to return to Japan to see her brother, Taro, who disowned her for marrying an American. She takes us back to their childhood; shares with us her dreams, goals and heartbreaks; explains how she met Charlie and the challenges she faced in America. She's in ill health, suffering for years from a weak heart, possibly caused by radiation, and now faces a life-threatening surgery.
Shoko has dreamed of returning to Japan someday, but life continually intervened. First, she couldn't afford it. And then, when she manages to stash away enough money, her heart isn't strong enough to make the trip. But she's determined to make contact with Taro, and turns to her daughter, Sue, to travel to Japan in her place.
This is where Sue takes up the story.
Sue and Shoko have never had a close relationship, but she is still concerned for her mother and sees how important it is to her to make amends with Taro before she dies. She agrees to make the trip, along with her teenage daughter, Helena. While in Japan, Sue is not only able to understand her mother better, but her own dreams are reawakened.
Although Shoko wanted to be a good mother, she fell short at times due to her health, her age, cultural differences and her own strong personality. But this trip is exactly what Sue needs and by giving it to her, I feel any mistakes Shoko made along the way are redeemed.
As a mother, I can identify with both Shoko and Sue, wanting to be the best I can be but knowing I fall short too often. Like them, I also have dreams I still hope come true; I liked the message this gave of never giving up on them, that there's no expiration date on dreams.
This isn't just a mother-daughter story, though. Dilloway provides a little something for everyone. I'm a history buff and enjoyed hearing about life in Japan during World War II. I also love a good love story and this one didn't disappoint me in that category, either.
So I suggest you read it, and if you do, let me know what you thought about it!
(To learn more about the book and the author, and to join in further conversations on BlogHer, click here. Oh, and I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.)