"My mother had four daughters by four different men."
There's only one way Shelby and her sisters can describe their mother: She's a sexpot. Helen Kimura collects men (and loans, spending money, and gifts of all kinds) from all over the country. Sure, she's not your typical role model, but she's also not just a pretty face and nail polish. She is confident and brave; she lives life on her own terms, and her four daughters simply adore her. These girls have been raised outside the traditional boundaries. They know how to take the back exit. They know how to dodge crazed lovers in highway car chases. They do not, however, know how to function without one another.
Then suddenly they must. A late-night phone call unexpectedly shreds the family apart, catapulting the girls across the country to live with their respective fathers. But these strong-willed sisters are, like their mother, determined to live life on their own terms, and what they do to pull their family back together is nothing short of beautiful.
At turns wickedly funny and insistently thought-provoking, Outside Beauty showcases Cynthia Kadohata's unerring ability to explore the bonds that bind.
Newbery Medalist Kadohata's (Kira-Kira) gifts for creating and containing drama and for careful definition of character prove as powerful as ever in this wise, tender and compelling novel. Although the 12-year-old narrator, Shelby, and her three sisters are as different as their respective fathers (whom they rarely see), they remain devoted to one another and to their stunningly beautiful Japanese-American mother, who uses her looks to collect men the same way she collects pieces of jewelry (and for much the same purpose). When their mother is critically injured and disfigured in a car crash, the girls are dispersed from their Chicago apartment to the care of the four fathers. At first Shelby's father, a Japanese-born gum manufacturer in rural Arkansas, reminds her of "one of those nearsighted Japanese men with cameras who moved in clusters throughout Chicago tourist attractions." But when one of the fathers appears to be mistreating a sister and Shelby tries to plan a way for all four to reunite, she begins to appreciate her father's kindness and generosity, and to find beauty in unexpected places. Her growing insight into the difference between beauty and perfection accompanies steady revelations about families and love. Ages 12 up.