The Translation of Love by Lynne Kutsukake
Thirteen-year-old Aya Shimamura is released from a Canadian internment camp in 1946, still grieving the recent death of her mother, and repatriated to Japan with her embittered father. They arrive in a devastated Tokyo occupied by the Americans under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. Aya’s English-language abilities are prized by the principal of her new school, but her status as the “repat girl” makes her a social pariah–until her seatmate, a fierce, willful girl named Fumi Tanaka, decides that Aya might be able to help her find her missing older sister. Beautiful Sumiko has disappeared into the seedy back alleys of the Ginza. Fumi has heard that General MacArthur sometimes assists Japanese citizens in need, and she enlists Aya to compose a letter in English asking him for help.
Corporal Matt Matsumoto is a Japanese-American working for the Occupation forces, and it’s his overwhelming job to translate thousands of letters for the General. He is entrusted with the safe delivery of Fumi’s letter; but Fumi, desperate for answers, takes matters into her own hands, venturing into the Ginza with Aya in tow.
Told through rich, interlocking storylines, The Translation of Love mines a turbulent period to show how war irrevocably shapes the lives of both the occupied and the occupiers, and how the poignant spark of resilience, friendship and love transcends cultures and borders to stunning effect.
I wanted to give this book 4 stars, but the ending made me bump off half(ish) of a star. Honestly, though, the ending was the only bad thing I have to say about this book.
I really enjoyed the characters in this book and the different perspectives of Japan we get. We follow a Japanese girl, a Canadian-Japanese girl who is forced to move to Japan (an expat), an American-Japanese man and woman in the military, and a Japanese man who couldn’t fight in the war who works as a teacher and translator. I loved seeing the different views of Japan and Japanese people through these lenses.
I also really enjoyed the story. It’s not a plot-driven novel by any means, but the plot was still interesting.
My issue with the ending is that it was too neat. Everything is finished too nicely and there was no real conflict in the end. **spoilers** Fumi’s sister literally just comes home. Their teacher gets deathly ill for half a chapter and is miraculously saved by Aya’s dad. Aya and her dad finally talk. Matt and Rachel (?) make up. That’s it in the end. **end spoilers** There was no real tension that lasted. Everything just,,,,, finished. It was ultimately just unsatisfying.
That being said, I enjoyed everything else and would still recommend this book, especially if you enjoy historical fiction.
Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? Let me know!
Thanks for reading! xx