Saturday, September 3, 2011

Review: Love in Translation (Wendy Nelson Tokunaga)

Title: Love in Translation
Author: Wendy Nelson Tokunaga
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 260
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Challenges: PoC
FTC Disclosure: I bought this book
Summary (from the back of the book): Stuck. That's how Celeste Duncan--with her deadbeat boyfriend and static career--feels. But then she receives a puzzling phone call and box full of mysterious family heirlooms that just might be the first real clue to the identity of the father she never knew. Impulsively, Celeste flies to Japan to search for a long-lost relative who could provide an answer and stumbles headfirst into a weird wonderful world--a culture whose inexplicable fascinations include foreigners, karaoke boxes, and unbearably perky TV stars.

With little knowledge of Japanese, Celeste finds a friend in her English-speaking home stay brother, Takuya, and comes to depend on him for all varieties of translation, travel, and investigatory needs. As they cross the country following the trail of Celeste's family, she discovers she's developing "more than sisterly" feelings for him. But with a nosy home stay mom scheming to reunite Takuya with his old girlfriend, and the chances for a successful search growing slimmer Celeste begins to wonder whether she's made a terrible mistake by coming to Japan. Will she find her true self in this strange land, and in the process discover that love can transcend culture?

Review: After reading the back of this book and the title I figured I was in a for a light romance. While there is definitely romance in this book, there is so much more. The title, Love in Translation, refers to many things, a fact you know once you've finished the book.

I liked the characters, both the Americans and the Japanese. There was a fun balance of obnoxious, nosy, funny, young, old, wise, goofy, and irritating, just like in life. Each character had an important role in showing Celeste a different aspect of herself as well as of Japan; they were each needed to complete the storyline.

The setting was also fun. I've never been to Japan, but from images I've seen and stories friends have told, I think the author gave a fair and fun portrayal of the country. From her last name I assume she is married to a Japanese man so perhaps she has traveled to Japan and seen it from a foreigner's point of view as Celeste did in this book.

All in all this was a fun book, but it also had touching moments which balanced it out and made me really enjoy it.
Geography Connection

(photo credit for the karaoke image)

Click to see my updated Google Map. I don't' think I've read a book set in Japan in a very long time so this was fun to "travel" to somewhere new. I really felt like I got a sense of Japan, the people and the culture through this book.

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