Great book that tells a great story! The Translation of Love was the April selection for Keep Turning the Pages book club and I happened to win a copy through a Doubleday Books giveaway. Double bonus! I thoroughly enjoyed this well written book, which is also Kutsukake's debut. The story centers around a young Japanese girl who is searching for her older sister who seems to have vanished in the Ginza district. WWII is over but the American GI's are still very present. Japan is under General McArthur's military Occupation, American and Canadian Japanese have been sent back after living in internment or POW camps, and democracy has new meaning in a war torn country that appears to want to embrace the unfamiliar American customs. Occupied Japan is place of turmoil and people are faced with harsh realities and having to comprise morals just to eat and survive. Families that once had everything are forced to beg for food. It's a matter of survival. Believing a rumor, Japanese citizens begin writing to General McArthur in hopes that he will answer their pleas for help. Fumi is unable to understand English and enlists the help of Aya, an American Japanese girl, who Fumi has befriended, to write to McArthur and ask for help in finding her missing sister. Together, the two girls hold out hope of finding Fumi's beloved sister. Soon, the girls and their quest have drawn the attention of others, including their teacher. Tokyo is not a place for an innocent young girl. American GI's and their Japanese girlfriend's can be seen all over. Unsavory people are taking advantage of other's misfortune. Fumi and Aya will see and learn a lot during their search for Fumi's sister, Sumiko, lessons that young girls would never know had it not been for a war that changed everything for everyone. There are other stories interspersed throughout the book, each coinciding with the main theme.
Kutsukake's story was well developed. The characters were likeable, even the supporting cast was great. Lots of things going on but everything is relatable and ties the story together. The relationship between the characters, the search for Sumiko, Sumiko's struggle to survive, the plight of a country trying to recover, the different people that inhabit this harsh reality...all of these things combined make this a glorious, wonderful story. Heartbreaking at times, yes! But, still. So very good!
*Many thanks to Doubleday Books for providing a copy through a super fun giveaway on Goodreads that asked reader's to describe a letter writing experience with a pen pal(s).