A Good Morning America Book Club Pick and New York Times Bestseller!
From debut author Asha Lemmie, “a lovely, heartrending story about love and loss, prejudice and pain, and the sometimes dangerous, always durable ties that link a family together.” —Kristin Hannah, #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Nightingale
Kyoto, Japan, 1948. “Do not question. Do not fight. Do not resist.”
Such is eight-year-old Noriko “Nori” Kamiza’s first lesson. She will not question why her mother abandoned her with only these final words. She will not fight her confinement to the attic of her grandparents’ imperial estate. And she will not resist the scalding chemical baths she receives daily to lighten her skin.
The child of a married Japanese aristocrat and her African American GI lover, Nori is an outsider from birth. Her grandparents take her in, only to conceal her, fearful of a stain on the royal pedigree that they are desperate to uphold in a changing Japan. Obedient to a fault, Nori accepts her solitary life, despite her natural intellect and curiosity. But when chance brings her older half-brother, Akira, to the estate that is his inheritance and destiny, Nori finds in him an unlikely ally with whom she forms a powerful bond—a bond their formidable grandparents cannot allow and that will irrevocably change the lives they were always meant to lead. Because now that Nori has glimpsed a world in which perhaps there is a place for her after all, she is ready to fight to be a part of it—a battle that just might cost her everything.
Spanning decades and continents, Fifty Words for Rain is a dazzling epic about the ties that bind, the ties that give you strength, and what it means to be free.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
A sweeping, emotional family drama that takes place in post–World War II Japan? Yes, please. Author Asha Lemmie’s riveting debut is the kind of historical novel that carries you away to a different time and place. The book’s heroine is Nori Kamiza, the daughter of a married Japanese aristocrat and an African American soldier who conducted an affair during the war. The seriously dysfunctional Kamiza family—who are cousins of the emperor—are consumed with shame and anger over Nori’s existence, locking her away in the attic of her grandparents’ estate as a child and hiding her from the world for years. Nori is a shy and kindhearted character, but she’s also a fighter. We were rooting for her as she tries to carve out a place for herself in some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable. Beautifully written, Fifty Words for Rain is suspenseful and fascinating. We couldn’t put it down.
Lemmie's epic, twisty debut chronicles the life of Nori Kamiza, a half-Black girl born illegitimately into a noble Japanese family in 1940. After Nori's mother abandons her at eight at her grandparents' Kyoto estate, Nori endures two years hidden away in the attic, where she is beaten by her grandmother, Yuko, who values the family's honor above all else. When Nori's older half-brother, Akira, moves into the house, he takes her under his wing and grants her more freedom. Yuko resents Akira's love for Nori and sends her, at 11, to live in a brothel and play the violin for customers. Two years later, Akira manages to get Nori back. In Kyoto, the siblings take in British cousins Alice and William, the former in Japan to avoid scandal. Years later, when tragedy strikes Nori again, she finds a home with Alice and her family in England. But just as she acclimates, Nori's called back to Kyoto, where she learns some hard truths. Lemmie makes a few bewildering narrative choices (Nori is ice cold to a suitor who continues to adore her, and though she has the money to do so, doesn't rescue a friend in the brothel), but she keeps the reader guessing and ends with a staggering gut punch. Sometimes bleak, sometimes hopeful, Lemmie's heartbreaking story of familial obligations packs an emotional wallop.
Sad and depressing
Interesting insights into Japanese culture, but a very dark book. I kept reading hoping for a happy ending, but...
Loved it until the end
I give it three stars because most of the book is really good but I’m so confused and let down by the ending! It feels like there should be a book #2 but there isn’t. There are huge loose ends not tied up. What about Noah? What about her mother? It is just not nice to write an amazing book and get the reader all emotionally involved in the characters and then leave them hanging like that :(
Please make a sequel!
Gripping at every turn
Exhausting, emotional, fulfilling, and fascinating.