March 12, 2009

Five Years on a Rock by Milton Murakami

Five Years on a Rock by Milton Murakami

Date Started: March 12, 2009 Date Finished: March 12, 2009

Summary: Sawa is a young woman who is traveling to Hawaii to become a picture bride. She first moves in with her in-laws and is having trouble living with with her mother-in-law (isn't that just a universal theme.). This story spans about fifteen plus years through the Great Depression, the Japanese diaspora to Hawaii, the labor riots and unions of the sugar cane plantation, along with Sawa's own woes of her impulsive husband and her rapidly 
growing family.

Likes: The voice that Murakami uses for Sawa is likeable and entertaining. The prose is simple and unadorned. It was an extremely easy read and it was interesting. The characters are real and accessable, regardless of ethnicity. The family deals with trials and tribulations just like every other family. The family is driven into debt by the father, who is a stern and impulsive man. His family rejects him and in turn, he begins treating his older son in a cold and aloof manner while playing favorites. Sawa is a strong character, despite the stereotype of Asian women being subservient and submissive. Like all families, the mother is the rock of the family and it is through her character and inner strength that this family stays alive and stay together. The juxtaposition between the two cultures, Sawa's traditional upbringing, the "laid-back" lifestyle of her inlaws, and the blending of these two cultures in Sawa's children shows different aspects of assimilation and acculturation.

Dislikes: The ending is awkward and it sort of trailed off. I also wanted to know more about the children, but since it's a first person narrative we just see the children through the mother's point of view.

Overall: I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. I finished it about 2 and a half hours which is a record for me. It was an enjoyable read and it's interesting to see the parallels between the Japanese American culture and my own. I will be reading the sequel Plantation Boy and trying to find the prequel story All I Asking For Is My Body. It mentions that this story is supposed to be a tetralogy, so I'm curious what the other book is.

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