Life as a newlywed can be complicated enough but for Shoko, a young Japanese woman who moves to California with her American military husband after World War II, the challenges a new language, different customs, unknown traditions are even greater. In How to Be an American Housewife, Margaret Dalloway traces Shoko’s journey from her youth as a pretty girl in Japan who’s in love with a boy from the wrong social class to her old age as an ailing mother of two, still struggling to make peace with her past. Narrator Laural Merlington brings Shoko to life with the pitch-perfect accent of a native Japanese speaker relying on years of careful, practiced English, and gives Shoko’s simple stories a showdown with her child’s teacher, tea with a neighbor, the first time she makes spaghetti an emotional depth based on years of passion, pain, and secrets.
As an old woman, Shoko is driven to make one last trip to Japan to reconcile with the family she hasn’t spoken to in decades, but when her health prevents her from traveling, she convinces her daughter, Sue, to take her place. Though Shoko and Sue (like most mothers and daughters) have a lifetime of misunderstandings between them, Sue’s trip to Japan allows her to see her mother in a whole new way, and draws the entire family closer together. Narrator Emily Durante, as Sue, brings a set of familiar feelings to the performance frustration, disbelief, and eventual understanding among them. The title of the book comes from a manual that Shoko receives upon her arrival in the U.S., which offers tips on everything from submitting to your husband’s religion to making homemade pasta sauce and the excerpts from the book that open each chapter show just how many sacrifices young war brides made to fit into their new lives. But while the culture clashes never go away entirely, the novel shows that the relationship between a mother and daughter can find a way to overcome them. Blythe Copeland
How to Be an American Housewife is a novel about mothers and daughters and the pull of tradition. It tells the story of Shoko, a Japanese woman who married an American GI, and her grown daughter, Sue, a divorced mother whose life as an American housewife hasn't been what she'd expected. When illness prevents Shoko from traveling to Japan, she asks Sue to go in her place. The trip reveals family secrets that change their lives in dramatic and unforeseen ways.
Offering an entertaining glimpse into American and Japanese family lives and their potent aspirations, this is a warm and engaging novel full of unexpected insight.
©2010 Margaret Dilloway (P)2010 Tantor
"Dilloway splits her narrative gracefully between mother and daughter (giving Shoko the first half, Sue the second), making a beautifully realized whole." (Publishers Weekly)
After reading all of the positive reviews of this title, I was terribly disappointed with this audiobook. The story was a trite Hallmark card, the dialogue was stilted and almost unbelievable, and the narration, while energetic, was the worst part. I've enjoyed Laural Merlington's narrations in the past, and she does a good job here, but the pronunciation of the Japanese was atrocious. If Merlington was bad, Durante's pronunciation was even worse. That would be acceptable as she is reading for Sue, but grating and wrong when she reads for other native Japanese speakers. I really wish that the producers of audiobooks would choose narrators who can actually attempt the non-English language in the text.
If you like family sagas this one is right up there. If you enjoy Oriental tales, this is for you.
Accents were great.
The mother daughter relationship was so touching.
The mother. She helps one see the complexity of people... you can't judge a book by it's cover. This goes for our own parents and grandparents too.
Good generational read
The elder mother - I really like her perspective
Laural did a fabulous job of negotiating the non-native English that the mom speaks, and the internal dialogue that she thinks. Emily did a nice job of conveying the younger woman's ernestness
The characters were real, easy to connect with even if you haven't lived through what they have. They make you care, enough so that I teared up.
by far the second half with Helena and Sue. I adored the first half as well but there was just something about the mother daughter dynamic of them that made me smile.
Mature and enchanting. I am a very picky listener and this is to my liking.
The story captures not just emigrant mothers and American daughters, but all mother daughter relationship. The author did a great deal of research with the military aspect of the story, she used the correct terminologies. She also did a great job capturing the essence of all mother daughter issues.
It was predictable.
The voice contrast and the accent was a great transition tool. I liked their performance.
I wouldn't the title works.
Though the main character was Japanese I think the typical emigrant military wife could appreciate this book. I think it is hard to be a military wife but even harder to be foreign to our culture and way of life.
I enjoyed the entire book. Having served in the Navy and stationed in Japan I enjoyed memories - that her descriptions of japan and japanese culture evoked.
No, I haven't but now would consider reading more their books.
Realtor, Newport Beach Homes, Foreclosure and Short Sale Specialist
The American housewife had an honest approach and sense of humor.
Ask a survivor's wife...
S. J. Swan
I have always loved the Aisian culture and history. I loved the details about the mother's life in Japan and her culture. I could easily visualize her village and her as a child. I love books that I don't have to strain to visualize the settings.
This book would compare to just about any of Amy Tan's books. It put me in mind of either The Joy Luck Club or The Bone Setter's Daughter which are two of my favorite books.
When Sue and Helena got to Japan for the first time in their life
There were too many moments that moved me to mention. The entire book gave me this overwhelming feeling of missing my mother. My mother passed away many years ago. I listened to this story of a mother who had so many things to tell her daughter before she died and each time she tried it always came out as a criticism or sounding like she was disappointed in her daughter. I found myself wondering if this is how my mother felt in the remaining months of her life. This book really hit home for me. I think many mothers and daughters will be moved by this book.
I enjoy mysteries, NOT thrillers, contemporary fiction, especially about diverse cultures, and sometimes history, if it doesn't involve too many dates. I often listen to a book multiple times, discovering unnoticed details in the retelling.
yes. It was a bit hard to live through the estrangement between this family's members through at least half the story. Perhaps that difficulty made the resolution of the story even more gratifying in the end.
I think the cultural difficulties between a Japanese and American spouse were realistically portrayed. When the family members forget their old biases and begin to show caring towards each other, the story made an important turning point. When the daughter and granddaughter begin to embrace their Japanese family and culture, one begins to glimpse more happiness in the family.
authentic in sound and dialect.
It would make a very interesting movie, as scenes shot on location would add a large cultural dimension which the reader can only imagine.
I think the stars should be unknowns. There are plenty of great actors/actresses who never appear except in independent films.
Thank you to the author for exploring this subject and bringing it to life.
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