Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

Forty years after the bombing of Nagasaki a scarred man knocks on Amaterasu Takahashi’s door in Pennsylvania.  He claims to have known her before her world burned and to have been sent with a box of letters a former acquaintance is sure she would want to read.  Unable to contain her curiosity she does read them and is swept back into the past, not just of that horrific day when she lost her daughter and grandson but far into her own past that is even now affecting the present.

This is a slight book that will keep you on your toes.  There aren’t too many characters, but there are LOTS of secrets.  Each time you think you know the whole story, another secret is revealed.  Amaterasu has been dealing with survivor’s guilt all these years; she feels it is her fault that her family members died.  It’s up to the reader whether or not to agree, and whether or not you believe all that she says.

The book has this interesting title because each chapter starts with a word or phrase in Japanese and a definition.  Each is a unique concept to Japanese culture and adds to the telling of the story.