One of my favorite things to read is fiction based on a real life. Sometimes it’s historical fiction, sometimes it is contemporary. How to Be an American Housewife is a little bit of both, which makes it double the delight. Margaret Dilloway wrote How to Be an American Housewife based on her Japanese mother’s experiences (her father even gave her mother a book called The American Way of Housekeeping) and those experiences make for a rich, engaging and moving novel.
Shoko left Japan 50 years ago. She left her parents, her brother and sister, and her homeland. Now, with her health failing, the death of her sister, and heartbreaking things left undone, she wants to go back. Go back to mend the bridge she burned with her brother, that has always been a shadow on her heart. But she can’t go back. Her doctor, her husband, and her heart won’t let her. So she sends her daughter Sue in her stead. There, Sue and her own daughter Helena, meet Japan with all her beauty and they also learn things about Shoko, things they would have never believed possible.
How to Be an American Housewife is about so many things. Love. Kindness. Assimilation. Culture. Secrets. Lies. And all of it is drawn so beautiful, so masterfully, so lyrically by Margaret Dilloway. Shoko was, for me, an immediate friend. I can’t say that I have ever had a problem fitting on the surface. I’m American, I’m white, and I’m a woman. Yet, I do know what it feels like to not fit in and I know what it’s like to have a dysfunctional family. Shoko’s story tugged at my heartstrings. I love her pride, her fierce heart, her strength, and her spirit. She made the book for me. For her alone, the book was worth the time. Then you add her daughter Sue and granddaughter Helena and it became something even more. As a daughter who barely knew her mother, mother/daughter books sometimes leave me feeling…well…left out and isolated. Here, despite the presence of both, I felt some connection to these female characters, even though I still haven’t quite grasped why. I love this book for that. This book has heart; a big, bright beautiful heart, that makes this book magical.
I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.