Tsukiyama (The Language of Threads) has a style at once evocative and formal, well suited to historical romances; now she takes on contemporary drama. At 38, Hana Murayama is dying of Werner's syndrome, a genetic defect that causes premature aging. Hana is almost totally dependent on her mother, Cate, who at 62 is still recovering from the sudden death of her husband, Max. As a child during WWII, Max had been interned with other Japanese-Americans in a camp in Wyoming and subsequently went on to teach history at a small northern California college. That background, her mother's love of gardening and her own usually feisty outlook are what Hana brings to her effort to live and die with dignity. Over the course of two days, Hana and Cate retrace in memory their lives and Max's. Their scattered and sometimes conflicting expectations are brought into sharp focus when Hana's best friend, Laura, now a successful East Coast lawyer, arrives with her two daughters, Hana's godchildren, allowing Hana and Cate to find a measure of the reconciliation that has eluded them. Tsukiyama has a wonderful ability to elicit delicate atmospherics; in particular, she uses the sense of touch to stunning effect. But the pacing is stilted, and neither Cate nor Hana allows herself a moment of private rage, although, in her thoughts, Cate strays briefly from the stoic. Her implicit frustration adds a note of vulnerability to the moving, subtle narrative. (May)
Forecast:With more than 400,000 copies of her books in print, Tsukiyama should have no problem finding an audience for this title. Blurbs from Michael Chabon and Jane Hamilton won't hurt, either.
Release date: 04/01/2002