The book (it’s not really a story, and I’ll explain why in a moment) details the lives of a group of young Japanese women who are on their way to San Francisco. Called picture brides, they make their journey by boat to meet their husbands for the first time.
In a poetic way, it details these women’s lives—from the boat ride to their first nights with their husbands to the hard labor in fruit fields and as maids. It details their children, their deaths, their experiences, the arrival of war.
These miniature storylines don’t focus on a single individual. Otsuka refers to the women in the story as “we” or “some of us”, which gives you, the reader, a sense of understanding and kinship.
“We gave birth under oak trees, in the summer, in 113-degree heat. We gave birth beside woodstoves in one room shacks on the coldest nights of the year…”
The book is broken up in to eight chapters–children, work, war, etc. Otsuka has done an amazing job at researching these women’s lives, thoughts, stories, and feelings.
At 144 pages, it was an extremely quick and fascinating read. I gave it 5/5 stars on Goodreads, simply for the beauty of the prose and the depth of research.