Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield
Publication Date: February 26th, 2013
Format: Paperback, 301 pages
Genre: Adult Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
When we visited the Arizona Memorial Park in Oahu a couple of years ago, there are two things that immediately stood out: one, how reverent and sombre the atmosphere was despite the hoarde of tourist in attendance and two, the significant ratio of Japanese nationals that made up of those attendees. The tour also featured a twenty-minute film depicting the events of what had happened that day. And as I looked around the auditorium while the harrowing movie played out, I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through the minds and the consequent emotions as they watched the film. I didn’t – couldn’t – hazard a guess.
I’ve always wondered what had happened to the Japanese-Americans in the States after Pearl Harbor. World History in High School was a little bereft. I didn’t know that they were taken in internment camps. While I was reading this book, a history buff at the office told me that it also happened in Canada and the Japanese-Canadians pretty much suffered the same fates as their American counterparts.
This book tells the story of a mother and daughter whose delicate beauty made them easy targets for unwanted attention. When I picked up this book, I was already feeling the heavy dread weighing in my gut. I’m not very good at reading anything that would depict torture, abuse, and most of all, rape. I think I read this book with my eyes half-covered. Thankfully, I soon found out that I was worrying for nothing. It wasn’t that disturbing, to be honest. Sure the conditions at the camp was severe, the food atrocious, and the treatment of the prisoners were what can be considered now as violations against human rights. But Sophie Littlefield didn’t really delve too much into the camp life; in fact, she sort of just glanced over it.
The story of Miyako and Lucy Takeda was equal parts heartbreaking, pitiful and poignant. The then recently widowed had to endure the grief of losing the gentlest, most caring husband to uprooting what was left of her family to a place where she’d had to live out the horror of what kind of evil men would do to covet her beauty. The core of the premise is really how far and how much would a mother endure to protect her child. And Miyako did everything she could even so far as to doing the unimaginable.
Lucy Takeda’s story was just as difficult but not nearly as heartbreaking as her mother’s. I guess in the end, and despite the trying life Lucy has had as an orphan, Miyako’s sacrifice had been fruitful nonetheless. Lucy was at a tender age when they moved to Manzanar. There, in the camp, she found and lost her first love. When the terrible tragedy struck, a nun took care of her until she begged to leave and find a life for her own. Her story, and how she found and yet again, lost her second love began at a motel owned by a feuding siblings.
I think the most frustrating of all is Lucy’s lack of voice. She was like her mother – self sacrificing. But where Miyako’s capitulations stemmed out of desperation, Lucy’s wasn’t because she lacked hope and solution. I think she could’ve fought for Garvey; she could’ve fought for her happy ending. She folded onto herself and it was because of her love for Garvey that she accepted the things that were thrown her way.
The suspense that the murder mystery the book started with will keep you turning the pages. But the mother and daughter’s past lives will keep you entranced until you find yourself no longer caring for the outcome of the crime that had happened in the beginning of the novel. Sophie Littlefield’s account for the lives of the prisoners wasn’t really that detailed so I can’t say whether or not it was done accurately. I also couldn’t discount it just because I don’t know much about it. My point is, I found that aspect of the book muted because I got too caught up with Lucy’s and Miyako’s stories. The author also spun some pretty fascinating and surprising twists into the story but what it lacked is the ability to conjure tears and emotions for a book that tackled delicate issues.