Fifty Words For Rain, Asha Lemmie, Dutton Books, 2020, 464 pp
I read this for a reading group. I think we all chose it because of the title, the amazing cover and the setting: post WWII Japan. Each of us had mixed feelings about the story leaning towards positive.
Asha Lemmie worked on her first novel for many years, with large breaks in between stints of writing. I can relate! It is an engrossing tale, sometimes a bit too melodramatic, though in the good way that Charles Dickens does melodrama. It was always a page turner, always satisfying, except for the ending. We puzzled over that ending for quite a while in our discussion.
Noriko Kamiza, the central character, has a tragic past. She is the daughter of a Japanese heiress and an African American soldier and was abandoned by both parents. She has been hidden away as a disgrace by her maternal aristocratic grandmother in the attic of the family estate. She has been made to know that she is not worthy, due to her darker skin. Her training is to be silent, never to resist.
Needless to say, that part of Noriko's life is heartbreaking. Though she finally finds a protector and a sense of self in her older brother, more heartbreak follows until she rises above her fears and broken spirit to effect that disturbing ending.
After continuing to be haunted by the novel for many days, I concluded that is was the fairytale atmosphere created by the author that drew me in as I read and kept me captivated until the end. Best of all, she made me ponder which choices I would have made if I were Noriko.
Good read for fans of Lisa See as well as Toni Morrison.