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Once Removedby Mako Yoshikawa
Reading Group Guide
1. The novel begins and ends with images of Claudia and Vikrum. In what way does their relationship form an appropriate backdrop for the novels other narratives?
2. What is the effect of the shifting points of view? Do these various perspectives mirror or conflict with one another?
3. Reis storytelling ability enchanted Claudia. How would you characterize her stories? Do they share any common threads? What is the significance of language in her capacity to remember, and to preserve her mothers memories?
4. Rosie and Hana appear to have many distinctions, especially in terms of career (mathematician versus artist) and cultural outlook. What drew Henry to each of them? What kept him from remaining committed to them?
5. Mako Yoshikawa includes vivid scenes of going through customs. How do the seemingly mundane items mentioned in these passages, the radish and the dragonfly in particular, garner their tremendous emotional significance? What metaphors can be drawn from the process of crossing these borderlines?
6. What determines the alliances within your own family? Which relative is your most trusted confidant, and how was that bond formed?
7. In what way do the novels characters embody various time periods, from the final chapters of World War II to the social awakenings of the 1970s and the dilemmas of contemporary life?
8. What shapes Reis perception of her father? How do his absence and Henrys presence impact her attitudes toward love and family?
9. Toward the end of chapter eleven, Yoshikawa asks, “So was it the fact that happiness lay in choosing love over a more glamorous match—that love, which might just be lifes ultimate goal, was captured by Hana only because she could see that the handsome, glamorous Emperor-in-waiting offered less than the banker with the oddly mismatched face?” Though the author then underscores the rhetorical nature of this question, she has made an important observation about the quandaries imposed by social pressure. What empowers so many of the novels characters to make bold sacrifices for love?
10. Why did Claudia reject Hanas warmth for so long? What determines whether stepfamilies will experience such tensions?
11. Why wasnt Henry able to have more compassion for Hana when he discovered her medical file? How does he define honesty and integrity?
12. In what way does Reis illness lead to emotional healing for her family? Can Hana accept that the melanomas onset was beyond anyones control?
13. How would you have responded to Vikrums ring? Is Claudias decision a liberating one, or does it trap her in a generational cycle?
14. What transformations occur as a result of Claudias reunion with Rei? What do you predict for their future as a family?
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