Sunday, April 14, 2013

REVIEW: Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield


In the dark days of war, a mother makes the ultimate sacrifice Lucy Takeda is just fourteen years old, living in Los Angeles, 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.

Bestselling author Sophie Littlefield weaves a powerful tale of stolen innocence and survival that echoes through generations, reverberating between mothers and daughters. It is a moving chronicle of injustice, triumph and the unspeakable acts we commit in the name of love. 

Paperback, 301 pages
Published February 26th 2013 by Harlequin MIRA (first published January 1st 2013)
ISBN 0778313522 (ISBN13: 9780778313526)

About the Author 

Sophie's first novel, A BAD DAY FOR SORRY (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's Minotaur, 2009) has been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, Barry, and Crimespree awards, and won the Anthony Award and the RTBookReviews Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Mystery. Her novel AFTERTIME was a finalist for the Goodreads Choice Horror award.

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My Thoughts

Reg Forrest lowered himself painfully into his desk chair, which was hard, used and creaky as he was. The dark brown leather was cracked and worn, the brass nails missing in places. When he found the chair in the alley, he thought it had a certain masculine appeal, like something a hotshot lawyer might own. But it hadn't taken long for the thing to seem as shoddy as the rest of his office.


Much of this story takes place in the Manzanar internment camp in California.

Ansel Adams [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This book starts with a murder, and elderly Lucy is a prime suspect. Her daughter Patty begins to question her mother's relationship with the victim, and through flashbacks we get to know Lucy as a young girl and to learn about her mother's past relationship with the victim, as well as other secrets.

Lucy as an adult is reserved and dignified, and she is loved and respected by her daughter Patty. However Patty doesn't really know much about her mother's past.
But there was the dark history Lucy carried inside her and never shared. The horrors of the war years-- being forced from her home and imprisoned, and then orphaned. Patty had never blamed her mother for trying to forget, but her secrecy had created a gulf between them nonetheless. It wasn't her mother's external scars that kept her outside Patty's reach, but the ones on the inside. What if they'd finally scratched their way to the surface? What if, after all these years, her mother's history had come back to haunt her? (page 64)
But as the story goes on, we are led through Lucy's past, and the horrors she experienced during WWII. From losing her father, to the government ordering all Japanese-Americans to interment camps, and all of the horrors of the camp, these are all revealed through the story. 

As a child, Lucy was sweet and smart. But she was also confused as the world around her changed. Confused by the animosity of friends at school, the teachers, the world at large, as the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and all Japanese Americans had to bear the doubt of their own chosen country.

Lucy's mother Miyako was a very beautiful, but a very flawed, emotionally unstable and dependent woman. It seems she married her husband in hopes that such a kind and tolerant man, and the quiet and stable life he offered, would secure her against a world she found overwhelming. She was often emotionally absent from Lucy's life, and Lucy grew to idolize and adore her father, as many young girls do. So when Lucy loses her father, she loses her bearings. And the next thing she knows, their family is being uprooted and forced to leave everything behind to move to a military-style camp in Manzanar, just for being Japanese.

Family friend Aiko is sort of an adoptive aunt to Lucy. When she loses her father, it is strong Aiko, her mother's best friend, that moves in and keeps the family afloat.

During her years in Manzanar, Lucy grows into a beautiful young lady, the spitting image of her beautiful mother, and she meets and experiences first love with a young man by the name of Jessie.

I don't want to give too much away about this story, but Lucy's relationship with Jessie led to one of my favorite moments in the story.
“Can I sit with you?” Jessie asked. “I mean, in the bed? Is there room?”

Lucy blushed, the sensation of warmth stealing over her scars unfamiliar and prickly. “Okay.” she wiggled over in her bed and patted the space she had made.

Jessie got under the blankets with great care, as though he was afraid of hurting her. He kicked off his shoes before sliding his legs under the covers, and they echoed on the wooden floor. The last of the sun lit his face softly as he pulled the blankets back up, his body touching hers at the shoulders and hips. (page 198)
I enjoyed this story. It is gently written, but realistic and hard-hitting. This provocative topic has recently become very popular, and there are a lot of books coming out now about the Japanese internment camps, and this is my first to read. And a fine introduction to this topic it was. This is a shameful period in America's history, and I can only pray that we never again repeat such mistreatment of our own citizens.

Lucy as a young girl is an engaging child that pulls at your heart strings. You want to protect her as a young girl. As an adult, you want to free her from her past.

My final word: This story wound up being more of a mystery than I expected. You get glimpses of things early on that slowly play out and reveal themselves, such as Lucy's scars. When you learn how beautiful she was as a girl, you wonder what happened to scar her? And who was this man from her past that is now dead? Who is the father of her daughter Patty? And then right in the end, in the final pages of the story...WHAM-O!...plot twist! And then another! And another! There were a few very nice, unexpected twists at the end that left this story very satisfying. This was definitely a worthy read.

Buy Now:
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Cover: A-
Writing Style: B
Characters: B+
Storyline/Plot: A
Interest/Uniqueness: A

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

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