For fans of Tayari Jones and Ruth Ozeki, from National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Rizzuto comes a haunting and suspenseful literary tale set in 1970s New York City and World War II-era Japan, about three strong women, the dangerous ties of family and identity, and the long shadow our histories can cast.
Twin sisters Hana and Kei grew up in a tiny Hawaiian town in the 1950s and 1960s, so close they shared the same nickname. Raised in dreamlike isolation by their loving but unstable mother, they were fatherless, mixed-race, and utterly inseparable, devoted to one another. But when their cherished threesome with Mama is broken, and then further shattered by a violent, nearly fatal betrayal that neither young woman can forgive, it seems their bond may be severed forever--until, six years later, Kei arrives on Hana's lonely Manhattan doorstep with a secret that will change everything.
Told in interwoven narratives that glide seamlessly between the gritty streets of New York, the lush and dangerous landscape of Hawaii, and the horrors of the Japanese internment camps and the bombing of Hiroshima, Shadow Child is set against an epic sweep of history. Volcanos, tsunamis, abandonment, racism, and war form the urgent, unforgettable backdrop of this intimate, evocative, and deeply moving story of motherhood, sisterhood, and second chances.
Rizzuto's quasi-thriller turned weighty multigenerational saga follows three women facing debilitating illness, alienation, and extreme isolation against the backdrop of war and a devastating environmental catastrophe. As the novel opens in the early 1970s, 24-year-old half-Japanese, half-white Hana returns to her sparse New York City apartment to find her estranged twin sister, Kei, knocked out cold in the bathtub, apparently the victim of a break-in. Kei falls into a coma and is hospitalized, and as Hana tries to figure out what happened, she visits Kei and tells her stories about their childhood in 1950s and '60s Hawaii, hoping it will help revive her. Of particular import are Hana's recollections of competing for their mother's attention, the time Kei nearly got swept away in a tsunami, and the book's finale the terrifying event that drove the sisters apart. While the chapters told from Hana's and Kei's perspectives are mostly gripping, the story line that carries the most heft is a third from the perspective of their mother, Japanese-American Lillie, that takes place before the twins are born and explores anti-Japanese prejudice during World War II, the horrors of Japanese internment camps, and the bombing of Hiroshima (themes also explored in Rizzuto's memoir, Hiroshima in the Morning). Though the book meanders a bit too much, it's bolstered by its convincing historical detail and its satisfying characters. A well-paced page-turner it's ultimately not, but Rizzuto's ruminative portrait of a ravaged family on the precipice of forgiveness leaves a lasting impression.