Love in Translation, Wendy Nelson Tokunaga’s second novel available in bookstores tomorrow, November 24, 2009, is simply that — her love story to Japan and all things Japanese. Of course if you read last Wednesday’s post, Love in Translation: Backstory and Song, you already know the how and why the author has a passion for all things Japanese and that she freely admits her writing naturally focuses on the country and its culture. However, though Wendy imbues the novel with personal insight, information, and a few shared experiences with her main character, this story is not autobiographical.
Instead it’s a book praised by fellow authors and reviewers as:
“A delightful novel about love, identity, and what it means to be adrift in a strange land. This story of a search has an Alice in Wonderland vibe; when Celeste climbs down the rabbit hole, one can’t help but follow along.– Michelle Richmond, NY Times Best-Selling Author of The Year of Fog
“An amusing story of one woman’s quest for her father and the improbable path of love.”
–Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters
“Tokunaga… describe[s] Japanese culture in absorbing detail.”–Publishers Weekly
“A delightful plot with wonderful characterizations.”–Affair de Coeur Magazine
Here’s the synopsis:
Stuck. That’s how 33-year-old aspiring singer Celeste Duncan feels, with her deadbeat boyfriend and static career. But then Celeste receives a puzzling phone call and a box full of mysterious family heirlooms, which just might be the first real clue to the identity of the father she never knew. Impulsively, Celeste flies to Japan to search for a long-lost relative who could be able to explain. She stumbles head first into a weird, wonderful world where nothing is quite as it seems—a land with an inexplicable fascination with foreigners, karaoke boxes, and unbearably perky TV stars. With little knowledge of Japanese, Celeste finds a friend in her English-speaking homestay brother, Takuya, and comes to depend on him for all variety of translation, travel and investigatory needs. As they cross the country following a trail after Celeste’s family, she discovers she’s developing “more-than-sisterly” feelings for him. But with a nosy homestay mom scheming to reunite Takuya with his old girlfriend, and her search growing dimmer, Celeste begins to wonder whether she’s made a terrible mistake in coming to Japan. Can Celeste find her true self in this strange land, and discover that love can transcend culture?
There is also the Excerpt: Chapter One – A Proposal for a sneak peek.
It’s true that based on the praise, synopsis and the mere title of Chapter One a potential reader would assume this to be another “chick lit”/women’s fiction tale of a thirtysomething heroine searching for fulfillment and love. Yet in Love in Translation there is much more to be told.
For Celeste Duncan — orphaned at age ten by her mother’s death — becomes a foster child and must literally create her own identity from memories and photo albums. This is a believable character motivated to search for her roots in of all places, Japan. Yes she is a stranger in a strange land but it’s through Celeste’s eyes and experiences that the novel becomes a vivid travelogue, a fascinating account of traditional Japanese customs and culture, and ultimately the discovery that people are people no matter what their heritage. Oh, for those who desire some romance, there is that very kind, respectful and good-looking homestay brother!
As Publishers Weekly acknowledges, Wendy Tokunaga “describes Japanese culture in absorbing detail.” Why not then allow the author to take you to Tokyo and Japan’s countryside? Love in Translation will serve as your ticket/passport/travel guide and occasional translator with writing that is both rich, natural and sensory.
Yes, sensory, because music also plays a major part of the storyline. When reading the Advanced Reader Copy, I honestly believed that “The Wishing Star (Nozomi no Hoshi)” was a traditional Japanese song and that Wendy had used it as Celeste’s “theme/karaoke/contest performance song” since it was such a perfect fit for Celeste’s situation. Only a few weeks ago did I learn that its perfection came from the music being written by Manabu Tokunaga and the lyrics by the author and their friend Hiro Akashi. Now seriously how impressive AND inspired to write, sing/record a song for a novel and offer it as a free download oniTunes here or at Wendy’s website here? Also on that website link, you’ll find and can listen to an eighteen minute Love in Translation Audio Drama Trailer in which Celeste Duncan explains how she got to Japan.
Rather than listen, though, simply take the leap and accompany her. Love in Translation is a refreshing change — a true getaway — to enjoy…and you will!
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand will be giving away two copies of Love in Translation. To enter, please leave a comment on this post before the deadline of Saturday, November 28th at 11:59 p.m. EST. Due to the busy holiday week, this contest is being extended and the winners — based on a random drawing — will be announced here in the Monday, November 30th post.