Synopses & Reviews
Though it's been more than twenty years since his funeral, the Fujii family is still not talking about Taizo. His mother keeps his photograph on the family altar, but as Taizo's younger brother Spencer says, "Over the years I have learned ... to look on all sides of the frame without seeing Taizo". Spencer's grandparents arrived in Hawaii to labor in the sugarcane fields at the turn of the century - but the old Japanese customs and expectations they brought with them still shape the family's lives in sharp, inescapable ways. And pidgin, the patois spoken on the sugarcane plantation, still colors their speech with an indelible mark of culture and class. The custom of placing full responsibility for younger siblings on the shoulders of the eldest son is particularly revered in the Fujii family. Spencer's father felt so duty-bound to his childless younger brother that he gave him one of his own children. The same deep sense of duty and sacrifice was expected of Taizo, who proved by age eleven that he had learned the eldest brother's role all too well. Haunted by their roles in Taizo's death, Spencer and youngest brother, William, pledged silence as little boys: "I looked straight at him and my face tightened. 'No tell nothing, ' I told him sharply. 'I not going tell nothing, ' he said". Now, twenty years later, their mother, upon whom the loss fell like a knife, is dying, and Spencer, her middle son, must break his silence.
When Spencer Fujii's grandparents arrived in Hawaii at the turn of the century, they brought Japanese customs with them. Five decades later, those traditional expectations still shape the lives of the Fujii family. Spencer, the child of first generation Japanese-American (Nisei) sugarcane plantation workers, is the middle son of this exquisite first novel. He is haunted by the sacrifice of Taizo, not only Spencer's big brother but his hero, who kept the tradition all too faithfully. While the Japanese traditions of responsibility, acceptance, and sacrifice form the structural backbone of this remarkable novel, it is the delicate evocation of Spencer's family life, his childhood days with the much-loved Taizo, and the beauty of his final communion with his mother that displays Deborah Iida's enormous talent. "Deborah Iida's fine writing and her wonderful ear opened the window on the world of Japanese Americans in Hawaii, a world that captured this reader."--Abraham Verghese, author of MY OWN COUNTRTY; "A small gem."--Kirkus Reveiws; "Resonant. A tender tale of secrecy and obligation, introducing us to a Hawaii the tourists never see."--Glamour.
About the Author
Deborah Iida, who was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, lives in Kahului, Hawaii, with her husband and their three young children. Winner of the 1994 Maui Writers Guild Grand Prize, she is at work now on a second novel.