Midori by Moonlight by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga
Midori by Moonlight
Author: Wendy Nelson Tokunaga
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Reviewer: Patricia Volonakis Davis
Though Midori by Moonlight was published in 2007, I only just discovered this book a few months ago. And I’m delighted that I did.
Midori by Moonlight is categorized as ‘chick-lit’, which is a term “used to denote a genre of women’s fiction written for and marketed primarily to single, working women in their 20’s and 30’s in the post-feminist era.” And while it does fit those parameters, this extremely well-crafted novel is so much more, and can be enjoyed by so many other readers than just by those to whom ‘chick lit’ is generally marketed.
The author, Wendy Nelson Tokunaga, (an American who has spent much time in Japan, and is married to the Japanese-born musician, Manabu Tokunaga) weaves many noteworthy aspects of both the Japanese culture and the American into the plot, such as the personal restrictions inherent in Japanese society, the American penchant for regarding foreign societies in general terms of either “wonderful and unique” or “backward”, and a number of other aspects of both cultures that we would all do well to examine for their drawbacks. But she does all this with such a finesse and lack of moralizing, that readers might never become aware that this element of keen observation is subtly added to the straight-forward plot in the same way as one of the carefully chosen ingredients is flavored into the main character’s delicious home-made cakes. As I observed in my review of Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells, I wonder if it takes another writer to fully understand that the more simply-written and the more easily read a work appears to be, the more difficult it actually was to create. Midori by Moonlight, also clearly fits into that category.
The plot revolves around Midori Saito, a Japanese girl who by her parents’ standards is “an old maid.” And while they are arranging a marriage for her, she is eager to get away from the rigors of Japanese society. Along comes Kevin, an American, who asks her to marry him and move with him to San Francisco, an idea which is very appealing to Midori. Kevin seems the answer to her prayers, but after she arrives in the United States, he dumps her, the very day after their engagement party, in fact. (Naturally.) Midori only has a sixty-day visa, but she most emphatically does not want to return to Japan to listen to her parents’ Japanese equivalent of, “We-told-you-so.” So, even though she knows she’s in for a tough time, (and some humorous struggles with the English language), she decides she will do whatever it takes to stay in her new homeland.
All in all, we give Midori by Moonlight an impressive 4 and ½ pasta plates, for being a fun but very intelligent read.
Midori by Moonlight is available on all online outlets and fine bookshops everywhere. Watch the delightful book trailer below, and also look for Wendy Nelson Tokunaga’s latest novel, Love in Translation, which will be released on November 24, 2009, and is available for pre-order online and in bookshops.
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