The Washington Post praised Mako Yoshikawa’s extraordinary first novel, One Hundred and One Ways, as “strikingly assured.” The Orlando Sentinel called it “an impressive accomplishment.” In Once Removed, Yoshikawa continues in the tradition of Alice Walker and Amy Tan with a powerful story of two women from different cultures who form a deep friendship that, though severely tested, can never be broken.
It has been many long years since Claudia last saw her Japanese-American stepsister. Once upon a time, Claudia’s Jewish father fell in love with Rei’s Japanese mother and abandoned his family to be with her. Though Claudia resented this new family her father so readily embraced, from the moment she and Rei met, the two girls formed a bond not even their parents understood. Their long-standing joke is that they are mirror reflections of each other--though in truth they are striking opposites. Claudia is blond and large-boned; Rei is dark-haired and thin, with distinct Asian features.
Now in their early thirties, Claudia and Rei have found a way back into each other’s troubled life. As impulsively affectionate as ever, Rei has come to Boston to recuperate from a potentially life-threatening illness, while the typically cautious Claudia has found herself replicating the behavior of her step-mother by falling in love with a married man. As they come together, the two women realize they must strike a balance between the friendship they long to recover and the secrets they have learned to keep. And they discover that despite the distance that has grown between them, their bond is as strong as ever--and could help them repair the other wounded relationships in their lives.
Lyrical, evocative, and richly imagined, Once Removed is an exceptional tale of two families, two cultures, and the connection between two women that survives the betrayals of those around them. Taking us from the exotic Japan of the 1940s and ’50s, to the verdant English countryside, to the urban streets of Boston, Mako Yoshikawa is a gifted storyteller who has firmly established her place in contemporary fiction.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Once Removed|
|Release Date: 05-27-2003|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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It has become a ritual: after we make love, Vikrum sings to me. He has an easy, supple voice, deep with a dusting of gravel to it. His sense of pitch is flawed at best, but that does not bother him nor, it seems, those of us who are his listeners. He takes requests-lately, with me, it has been Beatles songs. Does he sing lullabies to his children and odes to his wife? I love to hear him at all times, but especially when he sings only for me.
As a child, my stepsister, Rei, used to sing as Vikrum does: without care for who might be listening, and with scant regard for the exact words or tune. Perhaps, today, I will find out if she still does.
His rendition of "Yesterday" over, Vikrum rolls over onto his back and watches me as I hunt for my clothes. "Where are you going, why the rush? Stay awhile," he says, coaxing. "Take a minute, or thirty, to let your lover tell you how much he adores you. We can even debate the benefits of a twentieth-century human being born with a tail, if you like. Because there are some, you know."
"Tempting," I say. "But not today. I have to go meet Rei."
"Who? Oh, of course, your long-lost stepsister." Vikrum whistles softly. "So the big reunion is set for this afternoon."
The dress I was wearing is a little wrinkled, but it will have to do.
"So let me see if I'm getting this story straight. She calls you out of the blue, after an absence of who knows how many-"
"-years, and you're going to abandon your lover, who wants nothing more than to hold you