"Release me from my promise, she begged no one." ~ pg. 429
Kyoto, Japan, 1948. Eight-year-old Noriko "Nori" Kamiza is dropped off at the gate of her grandparents' estate. Grandparents she never met. Before walking away, Nori's mother leaves her with parting orders: Do not question. Be silent. Obey. On the verge of tears, a confused Nori begins a life of confinement to the attic. Her only interaction is with Akiko, a glorified babysitter that tends to the little madam daily, her grandmother that appears weekly to issue punishment in the forms of whipping, and an old man to teach her reading, writing, numbers and history.
Why is Nori hidden? Her grandparents take great measures to keep her concealed because she is the illegitimate child of a Japanese aristocrat (their daughter) and her black American lover. They will do anything to uphold their royal reputation. It is by chance that Nori's legitimate half-brother, Akira, moves into the estate as part of his inheritance. The siblings form a strong bond as the story spans across decades and continents. And this is where it kind of lost me.
"The cardinal rule was simple: stay out of sight unless summoned. Remain in the attic. Make no sound." ~ pg. 15
From the very first chapter, I picked up on V.C. Andrews' Flowers in the Attic vibes. Imagine a young girl not being able to make a sound. Hidden from the world. Never stepping foot outside for years. It is unfathomable! I definitely empathized with Nori and sensed the author took great care to pace the plot. However, I became disinterested in the middle somewhere and admittedly skimmed a good 100 of the 450 pages.
I am curious as to Good Morning America's Book Club reasoning for selecting Fifty Words for Rain. Was it to spotlight a debut author of color? Was it to bring awareness to post-World War II Japan? Was it meant to celebrate Japanese culture? Because these are certainly my reasons for trudging through this story, and thus, this review.
Fifty Words for Rain is intense historical fiction about an interracial girl's hard knock life. I like to think it is the author's intent for Fifty Words for Rain to be read slowly but not out of readers' disinterest. This is just my lone opinion and you may better like it. Bottom line, Bookhearts: I'll let you decide whether to give it a chance and add to your shelf.
Title: Fifty Words for Rain
Author: Asha Lemmie
Published: September 2020