BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton [in Library Journal]

Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton on BookDragon via BooklistFour decades have passed since Amaterasu Takahashi lost her daughter and grandson in Nagasaki’s atomic destruction. Now an octogenarian widow living in Philadelphia, she’s shocked by the arrival of a disfigured stranger claiming to be that grandson.

He brings letters from the past, as well as truths Ama kept buried most of her life. Reliving difficult memories – youthful indiscretions, desperate love affairs, estrangement from her now dead daughter – Ama resists seeing what is right before her eyes.

Jackie Copleton draws on her three-year experience living in Japan to infuse her debut novel with cultural sensitivity; that said, she’s not above commodifying geisha exotica à la Arthur Golden, which mars the narrative with avoidable predictability.

Narrator Nancy Wu is one of the slightly less ubiquitous readers trotted out for Asian-themed titles regardless of actual ethnic heritage. She has voiced sagas from Amy Tan, Jeannie Lin, Cecily Wong, and more, and here gives an effective-enough read, albeit with the occasional stumble in Japanese.

Verdict: Published in 2015 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Japan, Dictionary has enough gravitas to complement most historical fiction collections.

Review: “Audio,” Library Journal, March 15, 2016

Readers: Adult

Published: 2015


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