Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review: How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Putnam Adult (August 5, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0399156372
ISBN-13: 978-0399156373

After fifty years of marriage, Shoko Morgan, strongly feels the pangs of homesickness for her native country of Japan. Her heart is not only diseased but heavy with the secrets she has kept from her children and the estrangement from her brother, Taro, all these many years.

When her doctor tells her she cannot travel to Japan, she convinces her daughter, Sue, and granddaughter, Helena, to go in her stead. Shoko wants them to seek out her brother, Taro, to try to heal the rift between them. Not an easy task since he has hated Americans since his childhood during WWII. He blames every American for the bombing of Nagasaki.

While making plans for the trip, Shoko reminisces about her childhood, her marriage to the American G.I., Charlie, and her difficulties assimilating into the US lifestyle. It was as if Shoko was a dear friend and she was telling me her story and how she felt it was her duty to marry well and never bring shame to her family. I could sense her wistful sadness and at times an intense loneliness as a young wife and mother, struggling to understand her new culture.

The second half of the story is told from Sue and Helena's perspectives and wraps the tale up very neatly. I wasn't as enthralled with Sue as Shoko, but I could empathize with her apathy at her dead end job, the difficulties of being a single parent and her longing to do something more meaningful with her life. Helena was a delightful character and I would love to see her story set in Japan continued in a sequel.

This is probably the best debut novel I have read this year. The story of Shoko and her family, particularly Shoko, captured my heart completely and kept me glued to the pages until the end. Dilloway has mastered the fine art of storytelling; exploring themes of family, duty and forgiveness, while giving the reader endearing characters that vividly come to life. I certainly hope to see more from this talented writer.

Dilloway's influence for the story was her own Japanese mother's experience and the book her father gave to her mother titled, The American Way of Housekeeping. 5*****

Disclosure: A review copy of the book was received from Putnam through LT early reviewer program.


  1. I love your thoughts on this one! I wasn't sure about it, but you've convinced me...great review!

  2. That sounds like an excellent book...very interesting.
    A good review, since you won me over.

  3. I just won a copy of this book and I'm so excited I can hardly stand it. I don't think I've read a bad review of it yet.

  4. Best debut novel you've read this year? I'm sold!! I need to get my hands on a copy soon! Loved your review!

  5. Wow! Thank you for the awesome review.

  6. I'm so glad you liked this novel too. I'm not sure I loved it as much as you did but I certainly did enjoy it.

  7. I've been hearing good things about this one, and I think my mom would really enjoy it. I'll have to consider it for her birthday.

  8. I've seen this book on a few blogs, and I really want to read this one. Great post! I'm adding it to my huge wishlist.

  9. Sounds good :)

    I have read some great debut novels this year.

  10. "Huge wishlist" Lol, Jennifer, is there any other kind?

  11. Each review of this book that I read reminds me that I really want to read it! So many books, so little time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  12. I loved the book, too, and it's definitely on my "best of 2010" list!

    I'll link to your review on War Through the Generations.

  13. Best debut novel of the year? That's strong praise... it's going on my list.

  14. This is on my tbr list. I hope I can get to it soon! Great review and high praise!


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