Garden of Stonesby Sophie Littlefield, Emily Woo Zeller (Narrated by)
In the dark days of war, a mother makes the ultimate sacrifice
Lucy Takeda is just fourteen years old, living in Los Angeles, when the bombs rain down on Pearl Harbor. Within weeks, she and her mother, Miyako, are ripped from their home, rounded upalong with thousands of other innocent Japanese-Americansand taken to the Manzanar prison/b>
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In the dark days of war, a mother makes the ultimate sacrifice
Lucy Takeda is just fourteen years old, living in Los Angeles, when the bombs rain down on Pearl Harbor. Within weeks, she and her mother, Miyako, are ripped from their home, rounded upalong with thousands of other innocent Japanese-Americansand taken to the Manzanar prison camp.
Buffeted by blistering heat and choking dust, Lucy and Miyako must endure the harsh living conditions of the camp. Corruption and abuse creep into every corner of Manzanar, eventually ensnaring beautiful, vulnerable Miyako. Ruined and unwilling to surrender her daughter to the same fate, Miyako soon breaks. Her final act of desperation will stay with Lucy forever and spur her to sins of her own.
Bestselling author Sophie Littlefield weaves a powerful tale of stolen innocence and survival that echoes through generations, reverberating between mothers and daughters. It is a moving chronicle of injustice, triumph and the unspeakable acts we commit in the name of love.
In Littlefield's ("Aftertime" trilogy; A Bad Day for Sorry) latest stand-alone, three generations of Japanese American women are affected by the forced internment of Japanese citizens in California during World War II. In 1978, with the war long over, Patty is temporarily living with her mother, Lucy, when police arrive to question Lucy about the suspicious death of a man who was a guard at Mazanar, where she and her mother, Miyako, were residents. When they were sent to the camp, Miyako and 14-year-old Lucy were still grieving the recent death of Lucy's father, and the move to the camp marked the end of Lucy's childhood. The camp is rife with corruption and abuse, and the beautiful Miyako is targeted in ways that have tragic consequences for both herself and Lucy. Told through flashbacks, Littlefield's novel vividly describes camp life and the hardships and deprivations of a shameful and often forgotten episode in American war history. Emily Woo Zeller is an excellent narrator, clearly differentiating the voices of the various characters. VERDICT Recommended for fans of historical fiction. ["Although this book is a departure from Littlefield's regular fare, [her] fans are sure to devour this one," read the review of the Harlequin pb, LJ 12/12. See the Q&A with the narrator on page TK.—Ed.]—Mary Knapp, Madison P.L., WI
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Read an Excerpt
Tuesday, June 6, 1978
Reg Forrest lowered himself painfully into his desk chair, which was as hard, used and creaky as he was. The dark brown leather was cracked and worn, the brass nails missing in places. When he found the chair in the alley, he thought it had a certain masculine appeal, like something a hotshot lawyer might own. But it hadn't taken long for the thing to seem as shoddy as the rest of his office.
Reg flipped the corners of the stack of papers on his desk and sighed. The coffee wouldn't be ready for a few minutes yet.
Dust motes swirled in the first rays of morning sunlight, causing Reg to blink and then to sneeze. He had positioned his desk under the only window in the room, a filthy pane of glass at ceiling level that looked out into a corrugatedaluminum well half-filled with garbage and dead leaves.
Above the window well was the same alley where he'd found the chair, a narrow, stinking passage between the DeSoto Hotel and the building next door. Still, early in the morning, depending on the season, an errant sunbeam or two found its way down into the room, and for that small grace, Reg occasionally remembered to be grateful.
Beyond the office door, there was silence. The gym opened at seven, which was still a half hour away. He'd already unlocked the doors, but the half-dozen men who'd gather by seven would wait for him to come prop them open. They knew each other's habits. Early morning drew the shift workers, the boys getting in a few rounds on the bag after clocking out. Night security, deliverymen, dockworkersthey were quieter, as a rule, than the ones who came later. Other than the occasional grunt or curse, they had little to say as they worked through their circuits.
It had been several years since Reg himself had taken to the practice ring. He'd broken the same hand three times, and his shoulder was never right anymore. The ligaments in his back were for shit, and there was a scar like a zipper running over his left knee. He was fifty-nine years old and he'd spent three of his six decades here, in the basement of the DeSoto Hotel, building Reg's Gym up from nothing. Reg had paid in rough coin, but he wasn't complaining; the sounds and smells of this place were all he knew anymore, and if he spent more of his time locked up in this office with a calculator than on the floor these days, he supposed that was all right. A man slows down, in time.
A knock at the door. Raphael, his day manager, sometimes came in early and drank a cup of coffee with him. On days like this, when his aches and pains were more troublesome than usual, Reg could do without the conversationat least until he'd had a chance to work the kinks out of his joints and was feeling more sociable. The only reason he came in to work this early was his insomnia: often stark-awake by three or four, Reg had nowhere else to go. "Yeah. Come in."
He didn't turn. The only sound was the gurgling of the coffeepot. Reg squinted at the sheet on top of the stack and wondered if he needed to go to the eye doctor again. What had it been, two years, three, and it seemed like they were printing everything smaller all the time.
"Hey, Raphael, look at this invoice, will you, I can't make out the damn numbers"
He jerked with surprise when warm hands covered his eyes. For a moment he was frozen, remembering the way his sister used to sneak up on him, half a century ago. She loved to put her small hands over his eyes and make him guess, little skinny Martha who died of scarlet fever before her seventh birthday; he hadn't thought of her in years. The hands pushed gently, tilting his head back, one of them cupping his chin to hold it in place. Reg squinted, trying to see who was standing above him, but he was blinded by the sun streaming in the window. Something cold and hard pressed against his forehead, and the last thing Reg saw was a face surrounded with a brilliant, glowing corona, like Jesus in the picture his mother had hung above Martha's bed.
Wednesday, June 7, 1978
Patty Takeda was having the nightmare again.
In it, she stood at the back of the church as the organist finished the last few measures of Franck's "Fantaisie in C," watching her maid of honor approach the altar and execute a perfect turn in her pink high heels. There was a pause as the entire congregation waited breathlessly. Then the first triumphant notes of the wedding march rang out, and everyone rose in their pews and turned toward the back, expectant smiles on their faces. Patty emerged from behind the latticed anteroom divider. Step-pause, step-pause, a smile fixed on her face.
But something was wrong. Audible gasps filled the chapel and Patty looked down and discovered that she had forgotten to put her dress on. Or her slip, for that matter, or her panties or strapless bra. She was completely naked other than her white satin pumps. She tried to cover herself with her hands, but everyone was watching, staring, pointing, and she turned to run back to the dressing room but the ushers were standing shoulder to shoulder, blocking her way, gaping.
Patty woke, shoulders heaving, sweat gluing her T-shirt to her neck, the sheets knotted around her body. She was breathing hard, but at least she was awake. Sometimes, when she had this dream, she ran around the church for what seemed like hours, never finding an exit.
The sound of the doorbell jarred her fully awake. Was that the sound that had broken through the dream? Patty groped for the clock on the bedside table, knocking the tissue box to the floor before she found it. Almost nine. Patty lay still and listened as her mother answered the door. She heard her mother's voice, and a man's, back and forth a few timesand then footsteps, through the house, down the hall past Patty's door, into the kitchen.
" can offer you tea, if you like, Inspector," Patty heard her mother say clearly as they passed, and then the voices became indistinguishable again.
Inspector? Patty untangled the sheets from her legs and sat up in bed, rubbing her face. Why would a detective be visiting her mother's house? She pulled on the nylon running shorts she'd tossed on a chair the night before and was halfway to the door before she changed her mind and went back for her bra. It took a little searchingthe bra had disappeared halfway under the bedbut Patty eventually found it and yanked it on, then exchanged the T-shirt she had been sleeping in for a fresh one from the suitcase on the floor. She sniffed under her armpitsnot terrible. She really needed to unpack. She'd moved out of her apartment last week and she was staying here with her mother until the wedding, but it was only her third day off and she was still enjoying being lazy.
She peeked out the bedroom door, craning her neck to peer into the kitchen, and saw a man's polished brown shoe under the kitchen table. The rest of him was just out of sight. Patty grimaced and tiptoed across the hall to the bathroom. She washed her face and brushed her teeth in record time, pulling a comb through her hair and settling for a quick swipe of lip gloss.
When she entered the kitchen, she was feeling presentable, if self-conscious about her bare legs. The man stood and greeted her with a nod.
"Patty," her mother said. "This is Inspector Torre."
"Pleased to meet you."
"You too," Patty said automatically, taking the hand he offered, finding his grip surprisingly tentative. He was at least six, six-one, with the sort of beard that looks untended by lunchtime and thick, black sideburns encroaching on his jaw. Handsome, some women would no doubt think.
"I'm here to talk to your mother about the death of an acquaintance of hers."
"Who?" Patty quickly cataloged everyone in her mother's circle, a very short list. Besides work, Lucy Takeda went almost nowhere.
"Reginald Forrest. He was the proprietor of a commercial gym in the basement of the DeSoto Hotel."
Patty knew the hotela once-grand stone edifice about a quarter mile away, on Pine or Bush or one of those streets. A pocket of the neighborhood that had seen the last of its glory days. But she had never heard the man's name.
Lucy tsked dismissively. "Someone I knew a long time ago, in Manzanar. I haven't seen him in thirty-five years."
"But" Patty looked from the inspector to her mother, confused. Lucy never spoke about her time in the internment camp. "Why on earth would you want to talk to my mother?"
Torre cleared his throat, looking slightly uncomfortable. "Someone claims to have seen someone resembling your mother in the vicinity of the gym around the time he died. We've got a time of death between five and seven yesterday morning, and this person places your mother there between seven and seven-fifteen."
"But that's" Patty struggled to clear the morning haze from her thoughts. "My mom doesn't ever go over there."
"This person said " Inspector Torre seemed to be searching for the right words. "That is to say, he described certain characteristics____We asked around the neighborhood and several people mentioned Mrs. Takeda."
Now Patty understood his discomfort. "Characteristics " Yes, people didn't quickly forget her mother's face. The pocked and shiny pink scars took up most of the right side of her face, extending from her right eye down to her jawline. They encroached upon her lower eyelid, pink and puffed and vertically clefted; the eye itself was milky and gave the impression of both blindness and acute vision, which was unsettling and put the observer in the uncomfortable position of having to find another place to focus his own eyes.
"The inspector talked to Dave Navarro," Lucy said indignantly. "And the Cooks!"
The faint beginning of a headache stirred between Patty's temples. Her mother had never had a great relationship with the neighborsshe could only imagine how those conversations went. "I'm sorry, but this is, well, I don't get it," Patty said. "I mean, you weren't at the hotel yesterday morning, were you, Mom?"
"Of course not. And besides, Inspector Torre said it could also be a suicide," Lucy said. "It probably was."
"Why would you say that?" Torre asked.
"You said that. You said the stun gun or whatever it was"
"Captive bolt pistol," Inspector Torre said. "Often used with livestock, but it has other uses. What I meant was, was there something about Mr. Forrest that makes you think he might have been suicidal?"
"How would I know?" Mrs. Takeda asked. "Reginald Forrest is an old man now. I'm sure he had his reasons."
"Was," Torre interjected. "Was an old man."
Lucy shrugged. She was in an odd mood, both irritable and nervous, Patty thought. "Wait," she said. "Can you just back up a little for me, Inspector? I'm sorry I haven't had my coffee. I'm not sure I'm following what you're saying."
Lucy frowned, an expression that distorted her scars, and folded her arms over her chest.
"Sure." Torre reached for a notebook in his breast pocket, licked his thumb and started turning pages. "Janitor was buffing the lobby floor at about seven, seven-fifteen yesterday morning," he said. "He described you pretty accurately. Said you appeared flustered, that you were walking faster than normal."
"He doesn't know me," Lucy said. "How does he know how fast I walk?" "Mother. Please."
"Your mother's neighbors, Mr. David Navarro and Cindy and Tom Cook, did say that she takes frequent walks around the neighborhood."
"How would they know where I walk? They're not my friends," Lucy said. "They've never liked me. Dave Navarro had a tree whose roots were choking the sewage pipes under my house, and we argued over it until he finally cut it down.
And the Cooks have a daughter who spreads her legs for every boy who comes around."
"Surely my mother isn't the only person you're interviewing," Patty said hastily, painfully aware of how caustic Lucy could sound to someone who didn't know her. She was a loner, but that certainly didn't mean she'd killed anyone, a point Patty feared might be lost on Torre.
He shrugged. "Sure, we've got a few people we're talking to. Forrest had a son from a first marriagehe's disturbed or retarded or something, lives in a group home. There's also a girlfriend. I don't suppose you can tell me anything about either of them."
"Of course not," Lucy snapped. Patty tried to telegraph be nice. "I told you I haven't talked to him in three decades."
"All right." Torre tucked the notebook back in his pocket. "Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to give you a chance to think about Forrest, see if you remember anything that might help us out."
"From thirty years ago?" Damn, now she was doing it tooPatty instantly regretted snapping.
Torre turned his gaze on her. "So you live here with your mother, Patty?"
Patty resisted the urge to glare. "Only for a couple of weeks. I'm getting married. The wedding's on the seventeenth."
"Oh. Well, in that case, congratulations."
He stood and adjusted his jacket, his eyes traveling up to the shelf that ran the length of the wall separating the kitchen from the dining room, and Patty cringed inwardly. This was the moment that marked every newcomer's first visit to the house, the moment Patty had learned to dread so much that eventually she'd stopped bringing friends home at all.
Patty let her gaze follow Torre's, and tried to see what he saw, from his perspectivethe gruesome tableau was as familiar to her as her mother's Corelle dish pattern or the fake-brick design of the kitchen linoleum.
All those eyes: wide and shiny, staring into every corner of the room at once. It probably seemed like there were dozens of them, but in reality there were only six or eight animalssquirrels and chipmunks and a pale little desert mouse, all of them stuffed and mounted so that they seemed to perch at the edge of the shelf, tiny claws curled around the edges of the painted board, hunching and crouching and tensed to jump, mouths open and leering, like so many gargoyles about to come to life.
What People are Saying About This
"Littlefield shows considerable skills for delving into the depths of her characters and complex plotting as she disarms the reader." –South Florida Sun-Sentinel
"Littlefield's compelling writing will keep readers turning pages late into the night to find out what happens next. Outstanding!" –RT Book Reviews
Meet the Author
Sophie Littlefield is the bestselling author of titles in a variety of genres, including the Stella Hardesty Crime series, the Hailey Tarbell series, and the Aftertime novels.
Emily Woo Zeller's multilingual, multicultural framework led to a natural fit as an audiobook narrator. While she specializes in Asian American narratives, Emily's work spans a broad spectrum, including young adult fiction. She won an AudioFile Earphones Award for her narration of Gulp by Mary Roach.
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This book starts with a murder, and elderly Lucy is a prime suspect. Her daughter Patty begins to question her mother's relationship with the victim, and through flashbacks we get to know Lucy as a young girl and to learn about her mother's past relationship with the victim, as well as other secrets. Lucy as an adult is reserved and dignified, and she is loved and respected by her daughter Patty. However Patty doesn't really know much about her mother's past. But as the story goes on, we are led through Lucy's past, and the horrors she experienced during WWI. From losing her father, to the government ordering all Japanese-Americans to interment camps, and all of the horrors of the camp, these are all revealed through the story. As a child, Lucy was sweet and smart. But she was also confused as the world around her changed. Confused by the animosity of friends at school, the teachers, the world at large, as the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and all Japanese Americans had to bear the doubt of their own chosen country. Lucy's mother Miyako was a very beautiful, but a very flawed, emotionally unstable and dependent woman. It seems she married her husband in hopes that such a kind and tolerant man, and the quiet and stable life he offered, would secure her against a world she found overwhelming. She was often emotionally absent from Lucy's life, and Lucy grew to idolize and adore her father, as many young girls do. So when Lucy loses her father, she loses her bearings. And the next thing she knows, their family is being uprooted and forced to leave everything behind to move to a military-style camp in Manzanar, just for being Japanese. During her years in Manzanar, Lucy grows into a beautiful young lady, the spitting image of her beautiful mother, and she meets and experiences first love with a young man by the name of Jessie. I don't want to give too much away, so I won't reveal too much. But there were some very sweet moments, but there were also things later on that felt cut too short. I feel as if I were a little short-changed with one or two points in the storyline, but overall it was a fine story. I enjoyed this story. It is gently written, but realistic and hard-hitting. This provocative topic has recently become very popular, and there are a lot of books coming out now about the Japanese internment camps, and this is my first to read. And a fine introduction to this topic it was. This is a shameful period in America's history, and I can only pray that we never again repeat such mistreatment of our own citizens. Lucy as a young girl is an engaging child that pulls at your heart strings. You want to protect her as a young girl. As an adult, you want to free her from her past. My final word: This story wound up being more of a mystery than I expected. You get glimpses of things early on that slowly play out and reveal themselves, such as Lucy's scars. When you learn how beautiful she was as a girl, you wonder what happened to scar her? And who was this man from her past that is now dead? Who is the father of her daughter Patty? And then right in the end, in the final pages of the story...WHAM-O!...plot twist! And then another! And another! There were a few very nice, unexpected twists at the end that left this story very satisfying. This was definitely a worthy read.
How far would you go as a mother to keep your child safe from harm? What could you be driven to do, if like Miyako Takeda in Sophie Littlefield’s beautifully rendered and touching novel, Garden of Stones, you knew that, ultimately, you could not be there to protect your young daughter from the horrible assault you know lies in wait for her? The answers to these questions would be difficult enough under ordinary circumstances, during peace time. But for Miyako and her daughter, Lucy, who are imprisoned and subjected to the inhuman treatment those of Japanese descent endured while they were kept in the U.S. interment camps during World War II, the times are anything but ordinary. When the story opens, it is some thirty years later, and a man, an American, who was associated with the camp, is found murdered. It’s a mystery and a source of terrible concern to Patty, Lucy’s daughter, when her mother is implicated. Unaware of much of her mother’s and her grandmother’s painful history, Patty assumes her investigation into the matter will prove her mother’s innocence. But what Patty learns, through a series of shattering revelations, will alter forever her ideas about herself and her courageous and lovely mother and grandmother. In this poignant narrative, a tragic history is recounted, and the true bravery of women and mothers is explored; there is the murder of a man, too. The ending contains unexpected twists, and a haunting question: Who is really responsible? Who committed the more heinous crime?
I so love books based on true events. Learning the history was nice also.
Really found the history very interesting. Also, the author wrote so you cared about the characters. In addition, the twists and turns added a lot to the story. A+++++ job.
A poignant , beautiful novel with some twists that surprised even this jaded reader. A haunting love story on so many levels .
Emotional, moving, story.
This was a wonderful surprise of a story. Not what I was expecting at all. Lots of twists that I never saw coming. Full of suspense, drama, tears, heartbreak,....I loved it!!!
I really enjoyed this book from beginning to end... Liked the surprise ending.
Sad but true depiction of Japanese Americans during WWII
The book travels back and forth between 1978 San Francisco and 1941-43 when Pearl Harbor was attacked and Lucy and her mother were sent to Manzanar. It opens in 1978 when a former employee of Manzanar was murdered and Lucy becomes a suspect. The book is less a mystery than I thought it would be but it's other aspects kept my attention; even though it dragged a little toward the middle. How Lucy and her mother coped with their situation was a harrowing journey. I felt what they were feeling as if it was happening to me. I kept hoping things would turn out well for Lucy after all that happened to her. And I hope nothing like what happened to the Japanese-Americans ever happens again- for that was a dark time in America's history. It also had several twist endings that left me going "What the heck! I never saw that coming!". Those more made up for the lagging middle. Overall, I found it to be a heartbreaking yet also uplifting read. * I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
It was an amazing story of events that happened to the Japanese/Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The mothers in the story showed such love for there children. It was great.