How to Be an American Housewife

( 82 )

Overview

A mother-daughter story about the strong pull of tradition, and the lure and cost of breaking free of it.

When Shoko decided to marry an American GI and leave Japan, she had her parents' blessing, her brother's scorn, and a gift from her husband-a book on how to be a proper American housewife.

As she crossed the ocean to America, Shoko also brought with her a secret she would need to keep her entire life...

...

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Overview

A mother-daughter story about the strong pull of tradition, and the lure and cost of breaking free of it.

When Shoko decided to marry an American GI and leave Japan, she had her parents' blessing, her brother's scorn, and a gift from her husband-a book on how to be a proper American housewife.

As she crossed the ocean to America, Shoko also brought with her a secret she would need to keep her entire life...

Half a century later, Shoko's plans to finally return to Japan and reconcile with her brother are derailed by illness. In her place, she sends her grown American daughter, Sue, a divorced single mother whose own life isn't what she hoped for. As Sue takes in Japan, with all its beauty and contradictions, she discovers another side to her mother and returns to America unexpectedly changed and irrevocably touched.

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Editorial Reviews

REDBOOK
How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway Nope, this novel’s not a Mad Men—style throwback but a nuanced debut about what happens when expectations and cultures collide in a family. Shoko is a Japanese immigrant who spent her adult life trying to be the perfect American wife. When her grown daughter, Sue, gets a divorce, Shoko feels that Sue has thrown away the American dream. Does she have a point? And what is the American dream anyway? Put on the snacks and the shiraz and get ready for this novel to spark a late-into-the-night book-club gabfest.
PEOPLE MAGAZINE
Four Stars
Reviewed by Michelle Green

A strong-willed Japanese war bride, Shoko Morgan tries to run the perfect American household but only alienates her native-born children. Not until Shoko’s life is fading does her grown daughter Sue travel to Japan and learn who her mother really was. This radiant debut pays moving tribute to the power of forgiveness.

CRAZY-FOR-BOOKS.COM
This is a beautifully told story of mothers and daughters, of American and Japanese traditions, and of healing and forgiveness.

Shoko Morgan is a Japanese-born woman who marries an American GI and moves to the United States post WWII to be an American housewife. Her daughter, Suiko (Sue), is a divorced, single mother of a 12 year old girl named Helena. Sue is struggling with life and trying to figure out who she is and who she wants to be. When Shoko becomes gravely ill, she asks Sue to travel to Japan to reunite with Taro, Shoko's estranged brother. Sue readily agrees and during her journey discovers more about her mother, her own life, and who she is as a woman.

I loved this story. Shoko and Sue really tug at your heart strings and take you along on their journey of discovery with them. This story is told in three parts. The first part is told from Shoko's POV and describes her time growing up in Japan and how she came to marry her American GI husband. Part two is told from Sue's POV and recounts her visit to Japan and the discoveries she makes while visiting there. Finally, Part 3 is told from both Shoko and Sue's perspectives, with a satisfying and tender conclusion.

Familial relationship novels are right up my alley so it is no surprise that I loved this one. The writing is beautiful and sucks you right in. I am not at all familiar with the Japanese language so I was very pleased that the author weaved in the English translation seemlessly [sic]. The novel flowed well and left me with a good feeling in my heart. Shoko and Sue's story will stay with you for some time to come.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780594468837
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/2/2011
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret Dilloway

Margaret Dilloway was inspired by her Japanese mother's experiences when she wrote this novel, and especially by a book her father had given to her mother called The American Way of Housekeeping. Dilloway lives in Hawaii with her husband and their three young children. Her blog, American Housewife, can be found on her website, www.margaretdilloway.com.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 82 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(32)

4 Star

(27)

3 Star

(11)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 83 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Strong debut with personal roots

    How to be an American Housewife is the debut novel of author Margaret Dilloway.

    We meet Shoko and her American husband Charlie in their retirement years. Shoko is Japanese born, but married Charlie at the end of the war. She survived the bombing of Nagasaki, but her heart has been affected. As her future is not certain, she decides it is time to deal with the past at last. In the first part of the book, through flashbacks and memories, we learn of Shoko's childhood, her dreams, her secrets and what reality, her parents and society dictated she must do.



    She is estranged from her brother Taro, having neither seen nor spoken to him
    for the 50 years she has lived in the States. Unable to make the trip, she asks her daughter Sue to make the trip for her. Sue agrees and takes along her teenage daughter Helena. Their trip is the focus of the second part of the book.


    Every chapter in the book is prefaced by an excerpt from a fictional book called 'How to Be an American Housewife'. Some of the excerpts are downright funny, but some are heartbreaking. An early one reads -
    "When you marry and integrate with Americans, it is only natural not to have friends. Most American women will dislike you. Perhaps looking for other Japanese women will be possible, but probably not. Expect to be alone much of the time. Children help relieve this melancholy."
    Shoko's life in America is very much different - the food, the language, the customs and so much more. With political sentiment running high, she is never really accepted. Shoko stays true to herself though, coming up with some truly memorable lines...


    "I kept my head high and said Hello! It didn't matter whether peple said hello back or not. I was holding up my end. What they did was their own business."
    Shoko's son Mike and daughter Sue also find acceptance difficult as they are 'mixed.' Charlie is truly a 'good guy' though. I wish more of his feelings and thoughts had been explored as well as those of Mike.


    But the true focus of the book is the relationship between mothers and daughters - Shoko and her mother, Shoko and Sue, Sue and Helena. Shoko did not agree with the path laid out for her but acquiesced to her parent's wishes. Sue finally has the opportunity to discover and explore her heritage. As the youngest generation, Helena shines with her acceptance of everyone and everything.


    Dilloway's personal story is what made this debut novel such a poignant read. Dilloway's own mother was a Japanese war bride who did pass away from heart related illness. The fictionalized how to manual is based upon a book her father gave her mother to help her with her new life. I wonder how much of Sue is from Margaret's own life. An impressive debut from a new voice - I look forward to her next novel.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2012

    Noticing the invisible woman

    I loved this book. Besides being a brilliant story, I now see how important it is to notice women who are "invisible," the ones who are different, yet part of the landscape, and to remember that acceptance is one of the best gifts one woman can offer to another.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 30, 2010

    Very enjoyable read

    Great book! Charming and rich characters and an interesting story. This book kept me engaged the whole way through. I couldn't wait to pick up the book each night to see hos things were going to unfold. I would recommend! This would make an excellent choice for a book club.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 2, 2011

    A Wonderful Book!!

    I Throughly Enjoyed Reading This Book! It Was Hard To Put It Down. Written By A Gifted Writer! Ms. Dilloway Was Gracious Enough To Do An Interview (via Skype) With Our Book Club! Thank You Ms. Dilloway .... And We Look Forward To Reading Your Upcoming Novel. Sure To Be A Bestseller!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 10, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Loved this Book

    Crosses generations and goes back and forth between the US and Japan during these generations. the characters are all likeable, the story is great, the writing is excellent and I really enjoyed this book. One of the best I have read this year.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2014

    Great read

    I can't get enough of Japanese culture, for one. For two, this is a well written and entertaining novel about a mother and daighter. Win, win, win.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 22, 2013

    Excellent Book

    I really enjoyed reading this book. It made me think and reflect about my own family. My father was in WW II and my Uncle visited Nakasaki after the bomb - it hits close to home in that way. And I would agree with what some of the other's wrote ... just what is American? Everyone is so different.

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  • Posted June 14, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The guide for being an American wife in each chapter is a great

    The guide for being an American wife in each chapter is a great guide to reading the book. "Don't slurp noodles" made me laugh until I read WHY noodles are slurped. (Why did I nag my children about that?) I enjoyed the book and sadness for Shoko stays with me. I did find her husband a bit too good to be true.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 11, 2013

    Overall, a fascinating read

    I really enjoyed this book for a number of reasons, the writing style, the story content, the history behind it... If you are considering it, go ahead and get it. It's a quick read that manages to move you emotionally.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2011

    Good book

    I enjoyed this book,very much.

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  • Posted December 20, 2011

    TRUE TO LIFE STORY

    I REALLY ENJOYED THIS BOOK, COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN, THE MOTHER DAUGHTER RELATIONSHIP BROUGHT SO MANY MEMORIES ABOUT MY MOTHER AND MY FEELINGS GROWING UP. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK, IT WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH AND CRY.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Slow start but good

    This book was very good once you past the main character in her old age. I recommmend everyone read it though.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2011

    Enjoyed reading

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2011

    Highly recommended---a great read!

    Every mother or daughter will find themselves in this story. The flow of the story was smooth, though we travel through time and location throughout the story. Perfect book club selection! Enjoy!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2011

    Don't bother

    I was very disappointed in this book. I was hoping for a Japanese version of a Lisa See book I guess. Save you money on this one!

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  • Posted September 10, 2011

    Wonderful read

    This book was delightful! So many can relate to the strained relationships between mothers and daughters and not living up to expectation. A wonderful story about mending those relationships and finding a sense of home in a place not so foreign.

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  • Posted September 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great book

    Felt i was right there with characters. Well written and could not put book down

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  • Posted September 5, 2011

    Good original Story

    Good bookclub selection!!

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  • Posted September 1, 2011

    Touching and universal

    I absolutely fell in love with this book and its very real characters. So many themes were addressed in such an economical and authentic manner. The mother daughter dynamic was particularly well done as was the whole process of assimilation.

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  • Posted June 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Simply wonderful!

    This book is gripping. The characters pull you in. I could not put this book down at all. It had me laughing and crying. Wonderfully written, flows beautifully from Mother to Daughter. By the end of the book I was left wanting more. A must read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 83 Customer Reviews

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