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Requiem
     

Requiem

4.6 5
by Frances Itani
 

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By the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize-winning author of Deafening comes a new historical novel that traces the lives of one Japanese-Canadian family during and after their internment in the 1940s.

In 1942 the government removed Bin Okuma's family from their home on British Columbia’s west coast and forced them into internment camps. They were

Overview

By the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize-winning author of Deafening comes a new historical novel that traces the lives of one Japanese-Canadian family during and after their internment in the 1940s.

In 1942 the government removed Bin Okuma's family from their home on British Columbia’s west coast and forced them into internment camps. They were allowed to take only the possessions they could carry, and nine-year-old Bin was forced to watch as neighbors raided his family’s home before the transport boats even undocked. One hundred miles from the “Protected Zone,” they formed makeshift communities without direct access to electricity, plumbing or food—for five years.

Fifty years later, after his wife’s sudden death, Bin travels across the country to find the biological father who has been lost to him. Both running from grief and driving straight toward it, Bin must ask himself whether he truly wants to find First Father, the man who made a fateful decision that almost destroyed his family all those years ago. With his wife’s persuasive voice in his head and the echo of their love in his heart, Bin embarks on an unforgettable journey into his past that will throw light on a dark time in our shared history.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Frances Itani's new novel…addresses a powerful emotional situation with unsentimental rigor. Her economy and discipline are all the more remarkable because Requiem deals with a shameful episode in Canadian history that invites rhetoric and recriminations: the internment of 21,000 citizens of Japanese ancestry during World War II. But instead of raging, Requiem delicately probes the complex adjustments we make to live with our sorrows, adjustments both necessary and confining.
—Wendy Smith
Publishers Weekly
In a narrative that alternates between past and present, Canadian author Itani, winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Deafening, examines the internment of Japanese Canadian citizens during WWII and its impact on one family. In 1997, artist Binosuke Okuma drives from Montreal to the site of the camp on the Fraser River where his family has been interned when Bin was very young, and where his father made a decision that would cut him off from his family--and permit him to fulfill his potential as an artist. But at first memories of Bin's wife, Lena, who died of a stroke, chase him. Accompanied by his dog, Basil, and armed with tapes of Beethoven and a bottle of whiskey, Bin grapples with the anger and silence that swathe his experience of internment and separation—which his wife had urged him to address. After learning that his aging father sits in a chair facing the door, waiting for Bin's arrival not far from the location of the Fraser River camp, Bin must decide if he can return to the father who altered his fate, allowing him, he hopes, to keep going, as a son, an artist, a widower, and as a father himself who had built his own family far away from the broken histories buried at the camps. This sparse and melancholy meditation on family, history, and the healing properties of art addresses a little-known chapter in Canada's history, though Itani fails to bring those events and his characters fully to life. Agent: Westwood Creative Artists. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

"Remarkable . . . Understated . . . Requiem delicately probes the complex adjustments we make to live with our sorrows. . . . In this perfectly modulated novel, we see the emotional cost of suppression."—The Washington Post

"Itani writes with a delicate grasp of both the obvious and the unspoken, using ordinary words charged with extraordinary meaning to produce a serious book that nevertheless invites you to keep reading past midnight."—BookPage

"In Requiem, Frances Itani is at the height of her powers. . . . The Japanese-Canadian story has never been told with such passion, insight and telling detail. . . . Itani has told this story in amazing, cinematic detail. . . . [Requiem] is surely Itani’s greatest novel, although calling Requiem a novel does not do it justice. Requiem is a great work of literature from a determined author at the peak of her powers. It is also a sobering history lesson for all those Canadians who belittle other countries for their racism but are too smug and too blind to examine their own nation’s transgressions."—The Ottawa Citizen

"With Requiem, Itani has written an important and moving novel . . . told with painful and quiet eloquence."—Washington Independent Book Review

“Itani is an accomplished stylist; her prose is lyrical yet clear, her pace unhurried. . . . Itani’s empathy and understanding of human nature enliven her characters. . . . In this finely written, reflective novel, Bin’s physical journey and mindful recollections lead him to a place where he can choose to either hold onto his anger or make peace with his ghosts.”—The Globe and Mail

"An undeniably respectful and moving homage to a shameful factual episode."—Kirkus Reviews

"Beautifully rendered . . . Both tribute and a wail of grief . . . Lyrical and undulating, Requiem rages too."—Telegraph-Journal

"An evocative and cinematic tale . . . Poignantly, the story's determined brush strokes speak of quiet perseverance, underscoring the sense of loss, of talent suspended. . . . With a precise, elegant style Itani avoids the maudlin, and delivers a taut novel."—Maclean's

"A beautiful, slow, meandering read that explores the past of Japanese Canadians in a particularly resonant way."—The Globe and Mail (Favorite Book of the Year)

Library Journal
In 1997, artist Bin Okuma gathers his dog, Basil, and heads out on a road trip to put his past to rest as he continues to mourn his young wife, Lena, dead from a massive stroke. Okuma is heading to Canada's west coast to visit the place where he spent his early childhood along with his family, neighbors, and hundreds of other Japanese Canadians in horrific internment camps following Pearl Harbor. From their shocking eviction from a satisfying life in their fishing village to their stoic determination to build a positive life for their children amid unspeakable deprivation, Bin's parents demonstrate grace and dignity, even in the face of a painful Japanese tradition that demands that Bin be given to Second Father, a genteel, cultured man with no children of his own. VERDICT Itani's (Remembering the Bones) gorgeous language draws readers into this appalling chapter in North American history, only scratching the surface of what it must have been like for those in the camps, and nourishes them with tales of powerful love.—Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI
Kirkus Reviews
Layers of grief and anger surrounding dishonorable events in history are excavated in the new work from a much-garlanded Canadian writer. Itani (Remembering the Bones, 2007, etc.), who has won or been shortlisted for several major prizes, here tackles a national outrage in a skillful if mournful story woven around the experience of Japanese Canadians who, after Pearl Harbor, were labeled enemy aliens and deported from the West Coast to makeshift camps in inhospitable terrain, often at the loss of their livelihoods, homes and possessions. Such was the fate of Bin Okuma's family, shifted from a coastal fishing community to a brutal mountain location. But Bin's wounds run deeper. He is also grieving the recent death of his beloved wife, Lena, and nursing a long-held estrangement from his father who, during camp life, gave young Bin away to their educated, childless neighbor. Now Bin--an artist obsessed with rivers--embarks on a long, lonely road trip across Canada accompanied by his dog, his music and his memories, possibly to visit his elderly father. Itani deftly braids the various timelines, but even the late promise of forgiveness scarcely mutes the darkness of the underlying themes: racism, rejection, the legacy of national and personal pain. Although the plotting and conclusion are simple, this is an undeniably respectful and moving homage to a shameful factual episode.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802194602
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
08/07/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
792,797
File size:
651 KB

Meet the Author

Frances Itani is the author of two other novels: the bestselling Deafening, winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (Canada and Caribbean Region) and the Drummer General’s Award, and shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; and Remembering the Bones, shortlisted for a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. She has also written two collections of short fiction: Leaning, Leaning Over Water and Poached Egg on Toast.

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