BOOK CLUB – Picking Bones From Ash, by Marie Mutsuki Mockett

Welcome to BOOK CLUB, a joint venture between me and Jen from Devourer of Books.  Today we are going to be chatting about Picking Bones From Ash, by Marie Mutsuki Mockett which was published this month by Graywolf Press.

Picking Bones From Ash tells the dual narratives of Satomi a gifted pianist struggling in pursuit of goals that are largely defined by her mother, and her daughter Rumi who grows up in circumstances which are not dissimilar with her father in California. Weaving elements of the supernatural with fascinating details of Japanese culture, Buddhism, and the cultural differences between Japanese and Western culture, the novel gently explores the choices that defines the lives of these two women.

Before we get started, I would like to share the reviews of a few of the readers who will be participating in today’s discussion. Please feel free to leave your link in the comments section if I have missed it here.

Devourer of Books
That’s What She Read
Hey, I Want To Read That

If you plan on participating in today’s BOOK CLUB, please consider subscribing to comments at the bottom of the page.  I will be updating this post with new questions and ideas over the course of the day.


  • First off, what were your general impressions of the book?
  • Is this a book you would have read had you not been reading it for a book club?
  • Due to the unfolding of recent events Japan has been in thoughts of many, did you find that it influenced the way you read or experienced this novel?
  • What kinds of questions did you have during your reading? Were they answered?
  • A reading group discussion guide was included with the paperback version of this novel.  Which of the questions resonated with you and why?  Did they prompt you to think in different ways about the book?
  • What questions did you have for the group?

Marie Mutsuki Mockett – Blog Post About Family in Japan – Thanks Jen!

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear

12 review copies of Picking Bones From Ash were provided by Graywolf Press in order to facilitate this discussion.  Thank you so much!

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  1. I really liked this book over all, particularly the first section with Satomi and her mother. The depictions of a somewhat shamed woman and her daughter trying to make it in post-war Japan fascinated me. I would have been interested in it even had it not been a BOOK CLUB selection, definitely.

    I was in the middle of the first section of Picking Bones from Ash when the earthquake hit, it definitely made me pay even more attention to the descriptions of Japan and Japanese culture, and had me wondering what had been lost in the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

    1. I agree that the first section is the best one. I think that I would have liked to have seen that style used throughout. I understand wanting to break the mold and not be just like every other Asian-American mother/daughter novel, but it is a formula that has proven to work. Her change-up wasn’t as successful as she wanted it to be. I really, really liked it, though. It would have made its way in to my hands eventually.

      1. Which change up was an issue for you? Was it the setting or was it something about the style of writing. Throughout I just kept getting the feeling that I was learning more about what was going on with the characters from what other people were doing as opposed to what they were saying and I was wondering if that was her purposeful technique or just an aspect of the writing that I had trouble with.

      2. It was the style more so than the the setting. It felt like it was all of a sudden turning into a very different book. Maybe the first section was just too long. I don’t know.

        1. I felt the change in narrators almost became a completely different book, and even the third change, when we were back in Satomi’s voice, it felt different from the first section. I understand the idea of characters changing over time, but it was such a disconnect for me. It was the book’s biggest flaw, IMO.

  2. Also, Marie Mockett wrote a really interesting piece in the New York Times after the earthquake about her family who is still there. This piece on her blog links to it and gives more background about her family in Japan as well. Definitely worth reading in the wake of the earthquake.

  3. I found the book fascinating. I agree with Jen, the first section really captured my imagination. I think I would have read this without the read-along (I hope I would-I would hate to have missed this).

    Japan has been in my thoughts so much I couldn’t help but making connections. When the earthquake hit in the book opening up the hot spring all I could think of was how this hopeful outcome came when nothing but horror happened in the real world.

    I loved the final question about the quote “You look like loved person.” I loved that quote so much. The idea of being loved changing the look of a person.( I have to go back and look though-I thought Satomi said this to Rumi, not Akiko telling Satomi. I could be wrong).

    I want to know what everyone thought of the men in this book. Did anyone else have an overall negative attitude towards the men?

    1. Interesting that you mention that. Most of the men were overall pretty bad and/or absent, but at the same time, I didn’t feel like it was particularly anti-male. I didn’t particularly like Rumi’s father, but you can’t deny the love he had for his daughter. The young man she met in Japan was also a nice and helpful human being.

      1. The tenor of the writing was rather misanthropic towards all of the characters, the flaws and weaknesses of all dominated whatever redeeming qualities they might have had, men and women alike. If Francois loved Satomi and would do anything to keep her, this was overshadowed by his unscrupulousness. If Snowden loved Satomi or genuinely was concerned for Rumi, this was nothing compared to his sleaziness. Akira, with his gentleness and helpfulness is painted with a garish sartorial sense. The love Satomi’s mother had for her daughter paled against the ambition she had for Satomi and ,her own mercenary qualities. Satomi’s selfishness absolutely killed her capacity to love anyone but herself. Perhaps the only character for which there is no overweening flaw is Rumi, which had me wondering if this was thew character that Ms Mockett chose to primarily identify with as she was writing the novel.

        1. I think that Rumi’s unique ability to hear the voices of objects, her contact with the ghost, and the difficulty that she has traveling are the “flaws” associated with her character. They aren’t really comments on her personality, but I think that they keep her character from rising too far above the others. She’s real. I think Mockett probably did identify with Rumi, and it shows in her honest portrayal.

        2. Jeanne: I agree – none of the characters were terribly likable – except maybe Rumi…but she wasn’t fully developed in my opinion. I thought Akira might be different than the other men in the book – but after his supposed passionate kiss with Rumi, he then seemed to want nothing else to do with her.

    2. I agree – the men were presented in a mostly negative light – a bit self-centered and unsupportive of the women in the book. I wonder if this is a cultural thing? Or if there was some other reason that Moffett chose to paint the men in such a negative light.

      1. I think that I probably would have viewed them even more negatively had I not felt that the women were just as flawed. I did wonder whether something was being said about East-West relationships between men and women since they did seem to have so much influence and power with these Asian women.

    3. I don’t think that any of the characters in the book are portrayed in a particularly positive way, and I think that I like that. That is one of the ways in which it was very, very realistic. Everyone has flaws.

            1. I guess I didn’t doubt that he wasn’t her father; I felt there was more to his relationship with Satomi than we saw. In addition, I felt he was almost blackmailing Rumi’s father. I almost wish we would have explored this dynamic a bit because it was so open-ended.

      1. I admit that I had been hoping that Snowden might be Rumi’s father. That might have lent a more redemptive air to the attention he was paying to Rumi. Because so little play is given to any positive motivations any of the characters mights have had in their interactions with each other, the reader is left with only mistrust of Snowden in particular.

          1. Atsuko and Francois were very much cut from the same cloth. Both loved their children; but their ambitions for their children, thinking that success would be the guarantor of their happiness, obscured the affection.

    1. He creeped me out with Rumi too. I was wondering for awhile if her story were going to be more about her relationship with him. I didn’t find the book to be anti-man. It just seems that neither of these women were surrounded by people who were good in the way that helped them to grow. Both the men and women were very selfish.

      I actively did not like Francois, even more than I didn’t like Snowden. Satomi said that she could have done other things and left without the money, but the part he played in her being in San Fran was despicable.

          1. But he didn’t want her to have anyone else, and the career that she had was totally his doing as well. To say that someone is too shy and needs to be watched more closely was nothing to do with her. She had graduated college at that point. Letting her think her mother was dead was sketchy too. I found him too much into his own interests to be trying to do right by her.

              1. Me too. I was glad that she started to question him under the influence of Snowden, even though he was creepy. Someone needed to break her out of that and all that she would say was that his opinion meant everything to her. It was the only thing that Rumi valued.

    2. I also found Snowden to be creepy (I actually wondered for awhile if he was going to put the moves on Rumi). And Francois was more concerned about money than about relationships, in my opinion.

      1. I think that they’re both creepy, but only in the way that white men (specifically American) tend to be in all novels that are set in foreign countries. Maybe in real life. I don’t know. I spend my time with the locals when I travel.

  4. I loved the book. Especially the first section. I liked reading about Japan in the face of current events although the earthquake at the end did spook me a little.

    Yes, the men were all depicted as people you couldn’t trust, but so were a lot of the women. Satomi felt betrayed by her mother and step-sisters. Rumi was abandoned by her mother. I’m not sure the men are any worse.

    One part of the book that I wasn’t so thrilled with was the life Satomi made for herself in Japan after leaving Rumi. It’s weird, right? And while she never fit in really, I wouldn’t have expected all of the toys and girls and strangeness. But maybe that is my lack of understanding the manga/anime culture?

    I loved the emphasis on ghosts. It didn’t feel forced but just a part of their lives.

    1. I really disliked Satomi – I found her cold (as a person) even from the beginning. She was definitely a bit on the odd side…but more importantly, I thought she was rather selfish. I never really understood her abandonment of Rumi…but after seeing her life in Japan, I wondered if she viewed all people (including Rumi) as playthings for her enjoyment…and then when she got tired of them she just moved on.

      1. I loved Satomi in the first section of the book – and most of the way through her second part. I can almost understand her abandoning Rumi that way. It sounds like she was dealing with postpartum depression. What I can’t handle was the whole cartoon character (excuse me “manga” not cartoon) that she became. That version of Satomi was not appealing or sympathetic in any way./

      2. I agree with you, Wendy, on Satomi’s penchant for treating people as playthings. It is almost as if she is still very much a child, as if she never grew up because she was forced to be an adult at such a young age through her mother’s desires for her.

    2. I was a little surprised by the way that part of the book turned out. I enjoyed some of the parts, but I don’t think I was entirely satisfied by the way that they all fit together. That last bit struck me as really odd. I am not surprised that she returned to her drawings but the rest if her world seemed way different from what I would have expected.

      1. Would that be because she seemed to be a nut-burger? I’m mean I had the hardest time with her just being a little more than weird. The whole thing with her and Rumi spending so much time just watching her videos.

        After all the oddness when Rumi was at Satomi’s home, when she left to go to the Temple I thought she got a little more normal.

  5. Like the rest of you, I thought there was some serendipity with us reading this book at the same time the disaster struck Japan. I really loved the dreamy descriptions in the book and how it gave insight into the culture of the country. I wasn’t as connected to the characters…they seemed a bit undeveloped to me (but, I’m wondering if it was their “cool” exteriors…which perhaps is reflective of the way women are supposed to be in Japan?!? Would love other readers’ impressions re: that).

    I liked how Mockett wove the idea of ghosts and the supernatural into the novel – I don’t normally like magical realism type books, but this one appealed to me.

    1. I loved that ghosts were just a natural part of life, as well as Rumi’s being able to hear objects.

      I,too, wondered whether the characters were typical of Japanese personalities or just not developed well. And what was the deal with the way Satomi was living when she returned to Japan. That was just weird to me. Was she trying to recreate the childhood she wanted? Were the girl interns a way of having “daughters” but not having to take care of them?

      I’m not a big fan of magical realism either but there was something about the way this was handled. Maybe it was the setting, I think the Japanese culture is more allowable of that kind of thinking.

      1. I agree, Martha – I think the Japan culture lends itself to these supernatural type stories and so having that element in the book makes it a natural fit.

        Yes, Satomi was odd. And I do think she liked the little girls and their innocence – or maybe it was just a power trip for her. Hard to tell.

      2. I thought that was an interesting sub-plot, Martha. I wonder how much is based on fact? Are artifacts/art being stolen more so from Japan than other nations?

        Satomi was also involved in the theft – she took that statue from the temple, didn’t she?

        Here’s another question – whose bones were inside the statue that Rumi found at her father’s house? That was never really answered, I don’t think.

          1. Hmmmm, I thought the ashes were hidden within the temple (didn’t they retrieve them at the end?)…the bone that was found in the statue in San Francisco was never explained, I don’t think.

      3. I do not claim to be any sort of expert of magical realism in Japanese lore; but I get the impression after having watched all of Kurosawa’s films and reading David Peace’s Tokyo Trilogy, that the Japanese culture certainly has its share of animism and ghosts! While certainly more than current or modern culture would allow, it’s doesn’t seem to be less that any other culture’s lore though.

        1. I have decided that I can live with the ghost, since it is such a common feature in Asian literature. What I didn’t like was the whole objects talking to Rumi thing. I don’t think that fit at all. Even Satomi thought that was weird.

            1. I didn’t take it that way at the time, but I’ll consider the idea. They just seem so much like different things. It almost seemed like she was trying too hard to insert some magic, and I think the ghost would have been enough.

      4. I don’t consider this magical realism. One ghost and some talking objects isn’t enough. The magic should be throughout, not concentrated in one character. It should also be something that is accepted by all the other characters; she shouldn’t have had to hide it.

  6. I’m going to be honest: I wasn’t crazy about this book. It was okay until about page 200, then I really struggled to get through the rest of the book. Somehow the beauty of the descriptive language that I see other people mention escaped me. The introduction of the ghost after 200 pages of realism raised my eyebrow and; the crystallization of Satomi as a selfish and mentally ill person left a sour taste in my mouth.

    One of the things that will have me drop a book immediately is the abandonment of a child/children by (a) parent(s). If I know it’s going to be in a book, I will not read it. So, no, I would not have read this book if it hadn’t been for this Book Club and it was a near thing at that.

    The recent earthquake in Japan did lend a certain wry poignancy to the end of the story, but perhaps because I never felt deeply immersed in the world that Ms Mockett created, I didn’t have a feeling of loss or nostalgia.

    1. Jeanne – I didn’t love the book either – but I did find parts of it well done. For me, the characters weren’t developed enough and I never really connected with any of them. I did like the descriptions of Japan and its culture.

        1. That is the direction I leaned, Martha, that they were very emotionally restrained, especially when recalling the parts where Satomi was considered wildly emotional in her playing by Japanese standards and frighteningly unemotional in her playing by French standards. I think our perception of underdeveloped might be colored by our cultural biases.

      1. Small thing, totally not relevant to this discussion, but my IRL name is Tanya. I only point this out because if you think you’re talking to someone who you may know from another forum or group, it may lead to a misunderstanding later on 🙂

        1. OH, sorry – I was thinking you were Jeanne from Dog Eared Diary…so sorry, Tanya. You must think I am as weird as the characters in the book! lOL!

    2. Tanya, I understand your reaction to Satomi abandoning her child. I was really ticked off when she just walked away from Rumi intentionally. I hoped she’d redeem herself by sending for Rumi after settling somewhere but nope. And i was shocked by her behavior when Rumi went to Osorezan.

    3. There’s a lot about this book that I really enjoyed, but it’s the same stuff that I enjoy about other works that are written by Asian-American women authors. This is one area where I seem to really like “the mold”. The novel began to wear on my a bit when she changed narrators, but I was so caught up in the story at that point, that I just had to finish it. And it won me over again with Rumi’s arrival in Japan. Other than Satomi being portrayed as some sort of cartoon (can you all tell that really got to me?), I think the novel came back around nicely. I love the last couple of pages.

      1. I agree with you that there was something that was particularly appealing about the first section of he book that didn’t make it into the first section about Rumi. I’m not sure how that could have been any less jarring given that there was intentionally supposed to be a mystery around what happened to Satomi, but it was easier for me to put the book down at that point and take a little bit to get back to it.

  7. Hi! I’m sorry I’m a little late. I had an unexpected long distance call with a dear friend I don’t get a chance to talk to very often. She’s wonderful and also quite a talker!

    Anyway, I was just thinking about men in Picking Bones from Ash. While I was reading the book I didn’t get an overall feeling or idea that it was anti-men but when I think about the male characters, noe of them were impressive or all that likable with Snowden being a creepy, selfish one and the worst of them. All the men were selfish except for Akira. But I thought he was just okay.

    1. I love how everyone has a different opinion on who was creepier. I guess it depends on which buttons they push for you. Francois basically made Satomi into a prostitute when he was withholding the money that he made off her work with both the artifacts and the vegetable market. He was just never redeemable for me after that.

  8. Like Wendy, I didn’t like Satomi. The book switched to Rumi’s story at just the right time for me. Had Mockett continued to write about Satomi after she abandone Rumi in San Francisco with Francois, who I didn’t like at all, I wouldn’t have liked this book! By the end of the book I thought Satomi was okay, she redeemed herself a little bit but overall I really didn’t like her. I think her friend Shinobu who encouraged Satomi to be a nicer person.

  9. I think Satomi never got over her mother’s marriage to Mr. Horie and she always longed for their life together in Kuma-ume, just she and her mother. So I thought maybe that was the reason for all of the toys, stuffed animals and her somewhat childish clothing…I think she was obsessed with being a little girl. The game playing fits in with that, too. When Rumi was staying with Satomi at her home she dressed Rumi like an adolescent girl and told her there’s no happier time in a girl’s life than when she is twelve.
    I thought it was weird that Satmi just assumed Rumi would want to live with her and play the piano or, essentially, be one of her workers. As if there was nothing else worthwhile to do in life.

    1. I wondered about her marriage to Mr. Horie and the way she basically shoved Satomi out of the house. I think she wanted Satomi to have life where she didn’t need to depend on a man. But I didn’t understand why she took the other girls in as her daughters and seemed to lose her connection to Satomi.

      1. I think you’re on the right track there, Martha, I think she wanted Satomi not to depend on a man so much that she didn’t want Satomi to see her depending on a man either, and so wanted her to have a taste of independence. I wish she’d kept in better contact, though.

        1. I didn’t understand that either. Atsuko seemed to want daughters she was close to but she pushed Satomi away. She said at one point that Satomi had talent she needed to develop while the other girls could only expect to marry. But she didn’t treat Satomi in a very loving manner. I was puzzled by Atsuko

  10. I thought this book was fascinating and I’m very glad I read it. But it was a strange experience for me in that it’s one of the few books that I’ve liked despite liking very few of the characters! I learned a lot about Japan that I didn’t know. I wondered if these characters were similar to Japanese people…I think Michele mentioned this and I wondered if ghosts are a big part of Japanese lore. I also wondered if anime is very popular in Japan. I think it is here although I’m not too sure about that either! I thought the way objects talked to Rumi and she heard their history was a terrific way of telling us about the history of the Japanese objects and antiques as well as bringing up Rumi’s mother and setting her off searching for her. By the way, the description of the kannon doll gave me shivers up my spine…12 heads?!

  11. Satomi has this to say when she is pregnant:

    “Certainly the baby was trying to make contact with me. I would dream about her – I knew very quickly that I was going to have a girl. I would feel her thoughts intertwining with mine and I would wake up angry. My dreams, my thoughts, my fantasies did not need the interjection of this other voice. Though it was just a very small baby in the beginning, already its personality was quite clear. She wasn’t at all like me, but more like my mother. She would be the kind of child who would observe the world with a calculating brain. One day, after observing the bipedal monsters that around her, she would stand and walk.”

    Given the way Rumi grew up would you agree with her mother’s assessment of her from the womb? I thought it was interesting the way she viewed her child, but I don’t know that she turned out the way that she imagined.

    1. I thought Satomi’s assessment of the kind of person Rumi would be was a way of seperating herself from Rumi. I thought it was interesting that she paired Rumi with her mother, the woman who hurt Satomi, a woman Satomi loved but also resented. I felt like Satomi was creating tension between herself and Rumi, making sure they wouldn’t bond. I thought she was just making excuses to not be close to the baby.

    2. I don’t agree with Satomi’s in utero assessment of Rumi. It’s a paradoxical comparison between her mother and her daughter: Atsuko was a pragmatist and mercenary by nature; but she understood that an object could be worth more that its stated value (i.e. the Korean melon Bowl.) Rumi, on the other hand, could hear the history of objects, but couldn’t help but disabuse the incorrect provenance of any given object and thereby strip it of “added value.” Interestingly, Atsuko and Francois probably would have understood each other quite well.

      1. I think Satomi’s thoughts while she was pregnant had less to do with Rumi and more to do with the fact her life was totally out of her control. She was in a country she still didn’t understand, with a man she didn’t love or trust or life for the matter, she had a baby she didn’t expect or plan on. And while I’m not positive (the progression of time confused me a little) I think she was still pretty young. While I hated how she just walked off and left Rumi, she did send letters in the beginning (letters Francois got rid of), I didn’t dislike as much as others did. And since she turned out to kind of be a crazy pants (a technical term) I think her leaving was the best thing she could have done for Rumi.

        Oh, and I just loved that object talked to Rumi. And I loved the way Mockett described it. That was one of my favorite parts of the book.

        1. While I suspect post-partum depression was not a common term in the seventies, I
          I’m not willing to allow this as an excuse. This is where the rubber meets the road: You either have the capacity to move beyond yourself and love your child or you don’t and remain accountable and do the best you can. Yes, her circumstances were less that what she dreamed; but *choosing* to abandon your child is nothing less than cowardice and overall weakness of character. What’s even worse, is that her choice didn’t act as a catalyst for meaningful change in her own life. Commericial success notwithstanding, she became further concretized as a selfish and crazy bit… uh, pants.

          1. If Satomi had post-partum depression I think she would have had difficulty leaving San Francisco and American for Japan and getting settled there. And whether or not she had it, if she can function that well then she can care for her baby daughter. I think her mother spoiled her when she was a child and Satomi became convinced that she was talented and would be a success and that’s all that mattered to her in the end…that and living life totally on her terms.

            1. I cannot tell you how many times I daydreamed about running away from my life after my daughter was born. I went through elaborate scenes where I changed my identity, etc… I think with all that panic and anxiety she reverted back to what her mother taught her was the ideal life. I do understand that daydreaming about leaving and leaving are two different things, but I could understand her leaving.

          2. I totally agree…I really disliked Satomi’s cowardice. So, Satomi couldn’t bare to have her life controlled by Francois, so she leaves her infant daughter with him?!??!? Whaaaaat???

        2. I liked Satomi a lot in the first part of the book so I tried to justify (that’s not the correct word) her abandoning Rumi but I really struggled when she was so strange in Japan. It was just so weird and did not help bring me back to her character.

          1. You know, I think that must be why I felt a little sympathetic towards Satomir when she abandoned Rumi. And I didn’t come around to liking her again in the end. But, in the same breath, I’m glad she didn’t have a part of Rumi’s life.

            As much as I disliked Francois I think Satomi would have been awful parent to Rumi.And more than books where parent abandon children I loathe books where young children are forced to be the caregiver to their parents.

          2. Here’s how Satomi in Japan “worked” for me. In addition to a good does of post partum depression after Rumi was born, she became a lot like her mother. She formed a commune of sorts where women had to live like her mother had wanted her to live – without men and to be the best at their art. After I moved to Virginia, I “left” my mother’s ways in a manner of speaking. After Allison was born, I tried to compensate for being so miserable by returning to a life more in tune to my mother’s way of thinking. I’m just glad that all that backfired. Now I’ve found my own path and am much happier with myself and with being a mother. I don’t know if I’m making sense, but it fit. I can’t say that this was the type of ending I dreamed of, but I could see it at the same time.

  12. I was very fond of the book overall. It, as you can see in my earlier comments, was problematic in a few spots, but the overall story is very nice. I do wish that Satomi had become just an anime artist and not a cartoon.

    I think there were some beautiful descriptions, especially in the earliest sections of the book and in the end. Those were my favorite parts. I also like the attention that was paid to detail throughout. She didn’t leave any story line dangling.

    After I’ve had a chance to sit back and reflect, I kinda would like to know more about Rumi.

  13. Sorry I disappeared from the discussion for awhile – I had to go to work and thought I’d be home sooner…looks like I missed some good chat 🙂

  14. I loved this book! I felt as if I was in Japan and soaking up the differences in culture. The story and characters felt so real and honest. To me it was as fascinating as Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

    I don’t think this title would have been on my radar without Book Club, which makes me grateful to take part in it.

    I can’t say that the events in Japan entered my mind that much at all while I was reading this book. The connections I kept making were to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and, more often than not, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet.

    I could so much relate to Satomi. While I’m no prodigy, my mother has very distinct beliefs about how life should be lead. I kept to those while I lived with her, but when I moved away from home and encountered other ways of living, I explored and kept those explorations from her. I also very much related to Satomi’s experiences after giving birth. I am grateful that I never left Allison alone or ran away, but I daydreamed about it constantly during her first 4 or 5 months. Had she been able to seek medical attention, things might have worked out differently. I’m not sure. Thankfully my marriage wasn’t something I was forced in to because I had no other options. I can understand how what she did could make it hard for people to read, but for many women, those types of feelings are part of those post partum days.

    The first part of the story was definitely my favorite, like most others. Still, when the truth about Satomi came to light, it reignighted me. I think both Snowden and Francios were bizarre and creepy men. I found it telling that Rumi always called her father by his first name. She must have somehow known that he was only/mostly interested in her for what she could do for him.

  15. If anyone might be interested, The Ghost in the House by Tracy Thompson is an excellent look at depression and motherhood. Reading this was part of what helped me find myself again after Allison was born. I’m glad to be alive in this day and age. I would so be the 50s mom who drank herself to sleep every night had I not gotten the support and help of my husband, my OB/GYN and my therapist. It’s an messed up place to be.

    1. Thanks for the book recommendation. And I am sorry you had such a difficult time after the birth of your baby.

      I am not 100% convinced that Satomi had post-partum depression…although I suppose it is possible. Because the author never let us see Satomi immediately after leaving SF, we don’t know what state of mind she was in. There was plenty of evidence at the end of the book to suggest that Satomi wanted to be back in her childhood, and was actually quite narcissistic…IF she was depressed following the birth of her baby, I would have been sympathetic to her character. I guess I just didn’t see the evidence in the text that she was.

      1. I know I’m really late on replying to your comment. I completely understand your view point. The only thing that I can say is that I recognized what I saw there. I didn’t need any other evidence. If what I was thinking and feeling at that time was written into a book, I’m sure I would seem completely narcissistic as well. I was so miserable I just wanted to feel good again. For me, I wanted to run away and leave my entire life behind. To an outside person, I had a perfectly healthy and beautiful baby girl. Sure, she may have been fussy, but babies grow out of fussy. Besides, having a biological child was all that I’d ever wanted. Why would I so casually want to be rid of it all? At that moment in time, it didn’t feel that way to me. For Satomi, it could have been going back to her childhood.

        I don’t know what the author’s intentions were for Satomi. I just know how I interpreted them. I think it’s fantastic that there are so many other points of view that can be taken. Each reader brings his/her own experience to a novel. It’s a beautiful thing.

  16. Better late than never! Honestly, this one was hit-or-miss with me. I loved the first section and its descriptions of the Japanese culture. It is all so unfamiliar to me that it helped me see the Japanese in a whole new light. I did like young Satomi because I felt she was tremendously self-aware but yet naive; I liked that vulnerability.

    The book lost me with Rumi. I’m okay with the ghosts and the objects talking to her, but her voice felt so different. Francois and Timothy Snowden were horribly creepy, as everyone has already discussed, and I just never got a feel for Rumi as a main character. The ghost and objects had more vibrancy for me than she did.

    Once we head back into Satomi’s point of view again, I really lost interest. She was so completely different from who she was as a child, more child-like and even more naive, that I felt that the entire novel suffered as a result.

    Still, once I got the connection between Buddhism and Shinto, I realized how well Mockett was able to bridge that gap between two very unique religions that have had such a tremendous impact on the country. It is very serious and serene while also playful and mischievous, and the final discovery about Satomi’s mother is very revealing in more ways than one.

    Is this a novel I would have picked up on my own? No, this is not one that screamed that I had to read it. I may have put it on my wish list if it had received rave reviews from bloggers I respect, but even then, I doubt it. Still, I am glad that I read it because it does give some great insight into the Japanese frame of mind when dealing with others.

    1. I am glad that you chimed in here Michelle. I agree about the perspective that the book offers regarding Japanese culture. I enjoyed the story and wanted to know what happened, but I also feel like the actual construction of the book, whether because of cultural differences or just writing style, made it much less accessible to me at some points than at others. My interest levels varied throughout.

    1. Martha, thank you so much for being one of our regulars! I am happy that you have enjoyed our choices so far. I love hearing your thoughts. BOOK CLUB is so much fun and you are one of the reasons why!

    1. Wendy, thanks you so much for joining us! I always look forward to you insights into the book. I am really glad that you get something from it as well.

  17. There’s some great discussions yesterday afternoon into the night about the book. I’m sorry I wasn’t here. I lost my internet connection yesterday afternoon until late this morning. I can’t remember the last time this happened! Some problem with the cable co., weather, I’m not really sure. I couldn’t understand the garbled message on their phone. Yesterday just wasn’t my day, I guess. Anyway I’m sorry I missed so much.

    I want to thank Nicole for hosting the Book Club and Jen for my getting involved. This was my first month and I really enjoyed it. And now that I know how the club works, I will be better prepared next month!
    Thank you all for some very enlightening, interesting comments & discussion!

    1. I’m glad you could join us Amy! I had the same issue with internet connectivity, so even I wasn’t here as much as I intended to be. I think we are both in New York. Weather always seems to be an issue with me and the internet.