Edition: HarperCollins first edition, hardcover.
Warning: these contain spoilers! Read after you have finished the book.
“For each day… she needed a whole other day to contemplate what had happened and store it away,” page 60
“In the first few months I couldn’t find my way around at all and I was desperate to go home.” Page 38
“She was nobody here.”
“But the sadness won’t last so we’ll see what we can do for you.” Page 76.
“You’re homesick, that’s all. Everybody gets it… And the rule is to have someone to talk to and keep busy.” Page 78.
“it would be like covering a table with a table cloth, or closing curtains on a window;” page 79.
Part One: Eilis in Enniscorthy
Part Two: Eilis new to Brooklyn
Part Three: Eilis moves to the basement room
Part Four: Eilis arrives back in Ireland
“There be of them that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported. And some there be, which have no memorial, who are perished, as though they had never been, and are become as though they had never been born, and their children after them.”
“Barn’s burnt down—What do recall thinking about these quotes before reading Otsuka’s novel? How do you react to these words now?
I can see the moon.”
“My parents married me off for betrothal money.” Page 8
“Do you want to spend the rest of your life crouched over a field?” Page 16
“These folks just drift, we don’t have to look after them at all.” Page 29
“Let’s go beat up some Filipinos.” Page 76
“He talks to her all day long.” Page 107
“I hear he used to be Charlie Chaplin’s personal valet.” Page 110Perhaps Otsuka is trying to invoke images of a conversation between two of the Japanese brides—a snippet of dialogue that was overheard by the narrator. Perhaps she is trying to help the reader conjure images of one individual talking to another. Maybe you see a hand cupped to an ear to offer up a whisper or two heads touching in a conspiratorial exchange. Do these particular phrases stand out from the others? Do you find other phrases that could also have been used for emphasis? Why do think Otsuka emphasizes these phrases?
“But for the rest of her life she would wonder about the life that could have been.” Page 15
“We loved them. We hated them. We wanted to be them.” Page 39What emotions and conditions bring out the strongest feelings of regret in the novel? In your life?
“… for hadn’t we always dreamed of becoming our mother?” Page 16Did this resonate? Did you dream of becoming one of your parents or perhaps quite the opposite?
“They took us violently, with their fists,…” page 19.Few show tenderness or love. This violence both contrasts sharply with and reinforces the submissive exterior that the whites see in their characterizations of the Japanese around them.
“In February the days grew slowly warmer and the first poppies bloomed bright orange in the hills. Our numbers continued to dwindle.” Page 94
“Spring arrived. The almond trees in the orchards began dropping the last of their petals and the cherry trees were just reaching full bloom. Sun poured down through the branches of the orange trees. Sparrows rustled in the grass. A few more of our men disappeared every day.” Page 97
“Pale green buds broke on the grapevines in the vineyards and all throughout the valleys the peach trees were flowering beneath clear blue skies. Drifts of wild mustard blossomed bright yellow in the canyons. Larks flew down from the hills. And one by one, in distant cities and towns, our older sons and daughters quit their jobs and dropped out of school and began coming home. “ Page 100Often in writing, signs of spring are used as a metaphor for rebirth. Why do you suppose Otsuka uses these beautiful descriptors of the arrival of spring alongside the images of the Japanese disappearing? How does that juxtaposition make you feel?
“But is was not we who were cooking and cleaning and chopping, it was somebody else. And often our husbands did not even notice we’d disappeared.” Page 37How did the Japanese become more visible as they departed and after they were taken to the internment camps?
“We begin to long for our old neighbors, the quiet Japanese.” Page 126Can what we leave behind be more representative of who we are than the lives we led?
“Haruko left a tiny laughing brass Buddha up high, in a corner of the attic, where he is still laughing to this day.”Sometimes a single object left behind can create a scene that appears more empty than emptiness—a school swing without a child on it, a single shoe dropped in the street. Emptiness can feel emptier with a hint of the memory of fullness. How does the image of a Buddha left behind laughing resonate with the streams of Japanese quietly being taken away?
“It was like looking into the eye of the Buddha.” Page 13
“We made Buddhist altars out of overturned tomato crates that we covered with cloth, and every morning we left out a cup of hot tea for our ancestors.” Page 34
“We forgot about Buddha.” Page 37
“We’re just a bunch of Buddhaheads.” Page 77
“Every evening, at dusk, we began burning our things: old bank statements and diaries, Buddhist family altars, wooden chopsticks, paper lanterns, photographs of our unsmiling relatives back home in the village in their strange country clothes.” Page 86
“In Autumn there is no Buddhist harvest festival on Main Street.” Page 127Buddha is a touch point that in many ways mirrors the lives of the Japanese brides from arriving to being taken away. What objects serve as these mirrors of the storyline in other novels you have read or movies you have seen or in your life? What objects serve as these mirrors in your life?
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