Picking Bones from Ash

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Overview

Ghosts lurk in the bamboo forest outside the tiny northern Japanese town where Satomi lives with her elusive mother, Atsuko. A preternaturally gifted pianist, Satomi wrestles with inner demons. Her fall from grace is echoed in the life of her daughter, Rumi, who unleashes a ghost she must chase from foggy San Francisco to a Buddhist temple atop Japan’s icy Mount Doom. In sharp, lush prose, Picking Bones from Ash - by Marie Mutsuki Mockett - examines the power and limitations of female talent in our globalized ...

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Picking Bones from Ash: A Novel

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Overview

Ghosts lurk in the bamboo forest outside the tiny northern Japanese town where Satomi lives with her elusive mother, Atsuko. A preternaturally gifted pianist, Satomi wrestles with inner demons. Her fall from grace is echoed in the life of her daughter, Rumi, who unleashes a ghost she must chase from foggy San Francisco to a Buddhist temple atop Japan’s icy Mount Doom. In sharp, lush prose, Picking Bones from Ash - by Marie Mutsuki Mockett - examines the power and limitations of female talent in our globalized world.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A book of intelligence and heart.” —AMY TAN

“Deeply preoccupied with girls, talent, and power.” —MAUD NEWTON

“The best elements of a mystery story, ghost story, magical realism and the complex difficulties in deciding what is ‘best’ for our elders and offspring.” Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[Picking Bones from Ash], so firmly anchored in a sensuous reality, veers into a dream world. A reader has the sense that even the author was driven by her most powerful character: the original mother, raising her daughter alone, shunned by villagers, forced to make decisions that haunt her descendants.” —Los Angeles Times

Publishers Weekly
In this ambitious debut, the narration alternates between Satomi, a Japanese girl pushed by her mother to make her mark on the world, and Rumi, Satomi's American daughter who grows up in the mid-late 1960s believing her mother is dead. The novel is strongest at the beginning, as Satomi tells of her postwar childhood in a small Japanese village, the only girl without a father and the only girl with a talent: she is going to be a world-famous concert pianist. After her mother remarries, Satomi goes away to music school and, later, to Paris to perfect her craft. In Paris and back in Japan, Satomi falls in with the Western antique dealers who will eventually take her to the United States after her mother dies. The second half switches between the stories of Satomi and Rumi, who develops a skill at “reading” Asian antiques and begins to wonder about her mother when an old friend of her parents re-enters her life. Rumi's quest to unravel her tricky family history is absorbing, and even if it lacks the simple beauty of Satomi's coming-of-age narrative, Mockett succeeds where many others fail: making the reader care. (Oct.)
Library Journal
In her first novel, Mockett explores the relationships among three generations of women: Akiko, Satomi, and Rumi. Akiko urges daughter Satomi to put her talent as a pianist before anything else. Satomi has never known of her father, and that her mother has no husband is seen as a blight by many women in their small Japanese town of Kuma-ume. When her mother finally marries, Satomi's life is set on a course she has not planned. Satomi's daughter, Rumi, born and raised in San Francisco, grows up thinking that her mother has died. Rumi's talent, cultivated and encouraged by her father, is for authenticating Asian antiques. Like her mother, Rumi makes her talent her priority. But soon after she completes her college degree, Rumi begins having dreams and visions, which she believes to be the spirit of her mother calling to her. VERDICT Mockett's narrative is at its strongest early on, when she is telling Satomi's story. This imaginative take on a multigenerational novel will appeal to those who enjoyed Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club.—Cristella Bond, Anderson P.L., IN\
Kirkus Reviews
A piano prodigy, daughter of a Japanese outcast, flees motherhood but can't escape pursuit by her American offspring. Akiko runs a bar in a country town in postwar Japan. Her daughter Satomi's father is unknown but rumored to be a foreigner. That, and the bar's popularity with the town's men, causes the locals to shun mother and daughter. When Satomi wins a piano competition, Akiko marries a prosperous fisherman to finance her daughter's musical education. While studying at a prestigious Tokyo conservatory, Satomi grows fond of a young man named Masayoshi. Fearing marriage will interfere with Satomi's concert career, Akiko discourages Masayoshi from proposing. The disappointed suitor becomes a Buddhist monk and ultimately gets his own temple in Akita to the north. Satomi goes to Paris, where her musical zeal gives way to passion for Timothy, a rakish American antique importer and occasional smuggler. Helping Timothy scout artifacts in Japan, Satomi learns of her mother's death. She attends Akiko's obsequies at Masayoshi's temple, where, not entirely by chance, she encounters Francois, another crooked Asian antique purveyor. Timothy is arrested in Tokyo and imprisoned. Disowned by her stepfamily, Satomi has no choice but to accompany Francois to California, where she's exploited as his underpaid antique authenticator and mistress. When Satomi gives birth to Rumi, she feels trapped and, on impulse, walks away from San Francisco and her infant. Francois raises Rumi, who soon evinces a collector's clairvoyance: objects tell her whether they're genuine or fake. She's haunted by the haggard ghost of a woman she assumes is the mother Francois has told her is dead. When Rumi discovers a morbidmaternal memento secreted with Francois' hot merchandise, she heads for Japan, where Masayoshi holds the key to Satomi's whereabouts. Debut novelist Mockett's portrayal of everyday life in Japan is engrossing, but the passivity of her protagonists belies her intent to demonstrate how talented women defy domestic constraints. Author tour in New York and San Francisco
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555975760
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2011
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 795,983
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Marie Mutsuki Mockett was born to a Japanese mother and an American father. Her Japanese family owns and runs a Buddhist temple that has, among other things, performed exorcisms. This is her first novel.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2011

    Beautiful writing, beautiful story

    I was captivated right from the start by the world Mutsuki Mockett created, the characters, their situation, the culture. She cris-crosses generations and continents as she unfolds the story of two extraordinarily talented women, one who grew up in Japan without a father and the other who grew up in America without a mother. I didn't want to put it down and was sad to finish.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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