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Why She Left Us

About the Book

Why She Left Us

While the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War is a central incident in Why She Left Us, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto feels that this historical injustice is just the prism through which the events of her first novel are refracted. "The book isn't about the internment," the author says. "It's about how we construct our lives in the face of silence. On the grand scale, the silence surrounding the internment affects the children in my novel. But there is a second silence-a missing explanation for why a young girl gives up her child-and that is where the emotional resonance in this book really lives." That girl is Emi Okada, the daughter of Japanese immigrants, who brings shame to her insular family by bearing two fatherless children. She gives the first child, a boy named Eric, up for adoption, but her indomitable mother, Kaori, finds the boy and brings him home. After the war and the time spent in a Colorado internment camp, Emi moves to Hawaii with a new husband, taking her second child, a daughter named Mariko, with her. But she leaves Eric behind with his grandmother, and this seemingly callous rejection of the boy is the mystery around which the novel unfolds.

Moving backward and forward in time through much of the twentieth century, the story slowly emerges from the mouths of four narrators with four very different perspectives-Kaori, Emi's brother Jack, and her two children, Eric and Mariko. It is a story rife with emotionally destructive secrets, diffused by the revisions of time and memory. Family violence, the degradation of the wartime relocation, the passive silence that simultaneously binds the Okada family and rends it apart-these are the psychic burdens that, in the end, Mariko is left to unravel. An intricate puzzle that unfolds with narrative assuredness, Why She Left Us is the richly evocative and emotionally raw story of a family torn apart by the conflicts of honor, shame, pride, and love.

Why She Left Us
by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

  • Publication Date: September 5, 2000
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0060931825
  • ISBN-13: 9780060931827