Reviewed by Vera (Luxury Reading)
Raised in a small village in Japan during WWII, Shoko was encouraged by her parents to travel to the nearby city and work for the Americans. She needed to pay for her brother’s education they said, and of course, find an American husband for herself. Young and beautiful, Shoko had no lack of suitors, and with her father’s input, she settled on Charlie, a military medic, and set off in pursuit of becoming the perfect American housewife.
Years later, Shoko and Charlie are living a quite life in a San Diego suburb with two grown children. Life hasn’t turned out quite as Shoko imagined, but she has made do. Unfortunately, their daughter Sue, a divorced single mother, has had to make do with her less than perfect lot in life as well.
As Shoko’s health declines, she fears that she will never have the chance to travel back to Japan and reunite with her brother Taro. Marrying Charlie meant dishonoring Taro, who hated Americans, and Shoko has not spoken to her brother since leaving Japan. She entreats Sue to go in her place before it’s too late. Once reluctant, Sue finds the trip unexpectedly meaningful; the revelations that come about and the people she meets surprise Sue in more ways than one.
How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway is about learning to survive in a foreign culture, about striving for a better life for your children, and about hoping that it is not too late to address the choices you’ve made in the past.
The book is split into alternating viewpoints, the first half told by Shoko and the remainder continued by Sue. It was very interesting to see the same situation through two pairs of eyes, and to note that Sue’s attitude towards her mother was at times completely different than the way Shoko perceived it.
While I felt that the book overall was too quiet and was missing some oomph factor that would really make me want to keep reading, it was heartfelt and gave me some insight into the lives of Japanese wives of American GIs post WWII. At times, How to Be an American Housewife was even humorous; the tidbits added from the fictional How to be an American Housewife handbook prior to each chapter definitely gave me a lot to laugh at.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Putnam Adult. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.