If you enjoy warmhearted, but bittersweet, pieces of historical fiction with sweeping narratives spread out across decades, you will adore Leslie Shimotakahara‘s After the Bloom. Following two Japanese-Canadian women who hail originally from the United States, Shimotakahara’s novel is a thought-provoking examination of war’s impact on civilian casualties.
After the Bloom centers on Lily Takemitsu and her adult daughter, Rita, living in Canada in the 1980s. When Lily disappears from her home in Toronto, Rita is busy handling co-parenting as a divorcée. In spite of what the missing woman’s husband and daughter know to be true, the police have no reason to suspect that Lily is incapable of making decisions for herself, or that she has been the victim of a crime. Finding her mother falls to Rita, who has grown bitter after years of dealing with her mother’s selective forgetfulness and wandering habits.
There is no huge murder mystery to drive After the Bloom. Lily’s body doesn’t wash up in California, and her husband isn’t hiding any murder weapons in his closet. Instead, the bulk of Shimotakahara’s novel focuses on Rita’s investigation into her mother’s past, as she teases out where Lily and her family — which included Rita’s biological father and paternal grandfather — were interned during World War II, in a camp where Lily claims never to have lived. From there, After the Bloom shifts to the realities of Lily’s life in the fictional Matanzas internment camp — based on the very real Manzanar in Independence, CA — where she meets Kaz, an aspiring photographer who wants to rebel against the camp’s hierarchy.
It may not have any dead bodies lying around waiting to be found, but After the Bloom is a lovely debut novel from memoirist Leslie Shimotakahara, who based its events on her own family history. Add it to your TBR today.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.
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Image credit: Daniel Mayer