Title: Love in Translation
Author: Wendy Nelson Tokunaga
Release Date: November 24, 2009
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Multicultural Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Celeste Duncan is 33 and utterly alone. She never knew her father, and her mother died when she was ten years old. She managed through foster homes until she was eighteen, and has been on her own ever since.
Out of the blue one day, Celeste receives a box of items from a deceased relative she never even really knew. In the box is a clue to her father’s identity, a clue that sends her to Japan. Immersed in an unfamiliar culture, Celeste tries to find some answers to her past and is surprised to find that she is not as out of her element as she initially thought.
I thoroughly enjoyed Wendy Tokunaga’s Midori By Moonlight, so when I heard she had another book coming out, I jumped at the chance to review it. I loved her juxtaposition of culture and humor in that novel, and couldn’t wait for more of it from Love in Translation. I’m thrilled to say I wasn’t disappointed in the least – this book was fun, interesting, and I learned a lot from reading it.
Celeste was a wonderful character. Tokunaga did an excellent job writing her very sympathetically. The reader really feels for Celeste – she has no family and is desperately searching for someone to connect with. Tokunaga shows her skill at writing characters by walking a fine line: she never makes Celeste pitiable. Her situation is sad, but Celeste never feels sorry for herself and the reader never pities her.
The depiction of Japanese culture is another strong point of Love in Translation. It’s always wonderful when you learn something from a novel, and there is a lot of information packed into this seemingly small book. I thought the discussion of Japanese attitudes towards gaijan, or foreigners, was incredibly interesting. Tokunaga deftly points out negative aspects of the culture while still conveying her love and appreciation for it as a whole. It’s a wonderful learning experience.
There are so many different plot threads of Love in Translation – Celeste’s desire to find her family, Japanese culture, the relationship Celeste finds in Japan, and Celeste’s personal journey to find herself and what she loves. It really is amazing novel, especially considering how neatly Tokunaga ties these storylines together. Love in Translation is packed to the brim with adventure, love, and a lot of humor, and readers of any background will find something to enjoy within its pages.