Fourteen-year-old Sarah Rexford, half-Japanese and half-American, feels like an outsider when she visits her family in Japan. She quickly learns that in traditional Kyoto, personal boundaries are firmly drawn and actions are not always what they appear. Sarah learns of a family secret -- an interfamily adoption arranged in the throes of World War II. Her grandmother gave up one of her daughters to the matriarch of the family, and the two families have coexisted quietly, living on the same lane. While this arrangement is never discussed, it looms over the two households. In this carefully articulated world, where every gesture and look has meaning, Sarah must learn the rules by which her mother, aunts, and grandmother live.
Delicately balancing drama and restraint, Waters captures these women -- their deep passions and tumultuous histories -- in this tender and moving novel about the power and beauty of mother-daughter relationships.
Reading Group Guide
In Japan during World War II, a young mother is forced to allow her sister-in-law to secretly adopt one of her daughters. This arrangement is rarely discussed but its presence looms heavily over the relationships between the two houses; it strongly influences the emotional development of the two girls who grow up knowing which questions are better left unasked.
Decades later, when Yoko Rexford and her half-Japanese and half-American daughter Sarah return to Kyoto to visit, Sarah learns about her family’s complicated past. In this carefully articulated world, where every gesture and look has meaning, Sarah must learn the rules by which her mother, aunts, and grandmother have lived their entire lives. She also discovers what it means to love and to be loved.
Questions for Discussion
- Examine the characters of Sarah and Mrs. Rexford. How do their personalities differ? Does the book offer any explanations for how a daughter could turn out so differe