Synopses & Reviews
From an award-winning author comes a searing tale of three generations of women, Japanese and American, whose strained reunion in Kobe on the brink of World War II challenges the identity, spirit, and capacity for love of each of them.
When Etsuko Sone's sister dies in childbirth in Seattle's shabby Japantown, love for the precocious child catapults Etsuko back across the Pacific and into the austere samurai household of her mysterious mother, Chie -- a woman who rejected Etsuko at birth. The dubious reconciliation is for the sake of little Hanae, that she might learn her Fuji heritage and the Zen lessons of humility, dignity, self-discipline, and grace.
In Japan, Etsuko is the ultimate outsider: a returning emigrant in a land she left years before; a common woman thrust into a house of secrets and riches; a childless mother and a motherless daughter. As Etsuko and Hanae do their often quite comic best to adapt to life within Chie's samurai household, Japan is changing in dangerous ways. Worldwide economic strife strips Japan's people of food and clothing even as wartime preparations strip them of information and freedoms. Chie and Etsuko greet the mounting militarism with resistance, and when the imperial army cuts cruelly into Chinese Manchuria, accusations of treachery, of antipatriotism, begin to rain on the Fuji household. It is then that the women realize their separate independence is their common bond. It is then that Etsuko finds hidden strength to pursue meaning and beauty in a situation beyond her control.
Told with a social scientist's feel for cultural, historical, and familial confusions and a poet's ear and eye, The Strangeness of Beauty is a triumphant love story, a celebration of the capacity for transcendence that exists in every one of us.
About the Author
Lydia Minatoya's memoir, Talking to High Monks in the Snow, won numerous awards, including the PEN American Center's Jerard Fund Award for an emerging woman author, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers' Award, and notable-book citations from the American Library Association and the New York Public Library. Minatoya was born in Albany, New York. After earning a doctorate in counseling and psychology from the University of Maryland, she spent two years teaching at universities in Japan and China. She now lives in Seattle with her husband and two young children, This is her first novel.