Archive for February 10th, 2011

How to Be an American Housewife

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

By Margaret Dilloway

The Short Take:

This endearing novel centers on the life of a WWII Japanese war bride who is now an old and ailing woman, sadly estranged from her family in Japan. She asks her unhappy daughter to go to Japan to help rebuild her relationships with surprising results all around. I suspect this sweet little book will become a book club favorite.


All the elements are here: the young Japanese woman who leaves everything behind in hopes of a better life in America, a frustrated mother/daughter relationship, old secrets and sorrows, the need for new beginnings. You find yourself simply devouring this book to discover how it all turns out.

Shoko, the Japanese wife, is a delightful protagonist: genuine, clear-eyed, familiar but also foreign. Dilloway drew from her own mother to craft this wonderful character and that lucid portrait is the star of this book. Shoko is the rock this book stands on, and worthy in every way.

Another delightful touch is the short entry before each chapter, purportedly drawn from a book (imagined by the author) with the same title as this novel. These entries give advice to Japanese women who come to America as brides. Brutally honest and sometimes scathingly funny, the inserts let Dilloway explain the obstacles these Japanese war brides women faced every day of their lives without bogging down her story. It is an artful and insightful addiiton.

This is no great literary tome, but it is a lively read that can’t help but touch you in some way. And, it may also open your eyes to some aspects of WWII and Japanese culture — which is no bad thing.

A Little Plot:

The aging Shoko has a bad heart and must face a dangerous surgery. Before she faces the scalpel, she wants to rebuild a relationship with the younger brother who turned his back on her when she married an American soldier shortly after WWII. When her deteriorating health makes it impossible to take the trip to Japan, she asks her daughter, Sue, to heal the breach.

Sue is a divorced mother, unhappy with herself and her job. Unsure what to expect, she agrees to go and takes her own young teen daughter on the quest. What results changes everyone’s life.

Flashbacks reveal Shoko’s early life and why she came to America as well as sketching in her relationships with her husband, son, and the often confusing American world she has lived in for decades.

To visit author Margaret Dilloway’s website, click here.


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