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October 3, 2010 / Leslie

Review: How To Be An American Housewife

How To Be An American HousewifeHow To Be An American Housewife
by Margaret Dilloway

Genre: Women’s Literature
Published: August 2010 by Putnam
Rating: 4½ of 5 stars

From the very first page I was drawn into this novel by debut author Margaret Dilloway. A charming story about the relationship between a Japanese mother and her American daughter struggling to understand each other and their choices in life.

Shoko is a war bride who met and married Charlie in Japan, moved to America and raised her family in a traditional manner. Her daughter, Sue, is not so traditional. She is a divorced single parent with a career. The first half of the book is told from the point of view of Shoko. We go back and forth in time as we learn about her life in Japan as a young woman and her life with Charlie in America. Shoko is not well and she wants to go back to Japan one last time to find her estranged brother. The second half of the book is told from the point of view of Sue, Shoko’s daughter. Sue has agreed to go to Japan on behalf of her mother and find her uncle.

This is an entertaining, satisfying story; one of the best books I have read this year. It’s a story that really makes you think about cultural differences and how difficult it must have been for a young woman to leave everything she has ever known and move to a foreign country where the language and customs were completely different. Shoko did not know if she would ever go home again or see her parents again. It was also difficult for Sue to have a mother who did not fit in with all the other moms when she was a young girl. In this exquisitely written novel the reader can feel the struggles each is going through to understand and accept the other. While some readers may find it predictable as there are eventually happy endings all around, I found it to be an uplifting story.

The author was inspired by the life of her own mother who spent her youth in WWII era Japan and recorded many of her stories on tape, several of which were incorporated into the novel. One of the features of the book that I enjoyed is that each chapter begins with a quotation from a fictitious book entitled How To Be An American Housewife. The inspiration for this was from a book that the author’s father gave her mother explaining how to keep house “the American way”.

From chapter six, some of the book’s advice:

“You must pay particular attention to raising daughters in the Japanese tradition. With American daughters, there are more ways to get into trouble, as she will want to be American. Teach her to resist this urge if you want to avoid the shame of having a daughter who runs with the fast American crowd.” – From the Chapter “American Family Habits.

Highly recommended.
Source: Review Copy provided by LibraryThing.


Leave a Comment
  1. JoAnn / Oct 4 2010 7:56 am

    I’ve seen this book around, but have never read a review. It sounds like a book I’d enjoy – thanks!


  2. Teresa / Oct 4 2010 11:04 am

    I’ve read several favorable reviews on this one and am looking forward to reading it myself.


  3. Esme / Oct 4 2010 11:07 pm

    I so want to read this book. I need to put it onto my wish list.


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