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Shizuko's Daughter

Shizuko's Daughter

4.6 16
by Kyoko Mori

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"Lyrical...A beautifully written book about a bitterly painful coming of age."
Yuki Okuda knows her mother would be proud of her grades and her achievements in sports if she were alive. But she committed suicide. And Yuki has to learn how to live with a father who doesn't seem to love her and a stepmother who treats her badly.


"Lyrical...A beautifully written book about a bitterly painful coming of age."
Yuki Okuda knows her mother would be proud of her grades and her achievements in sports if she were alive. But she committed suicide. And Yuki has to learn how to live with a father who doesn't seem to love her and a stepmother who treats her badly. Most important, she has to learn how to live with herself: a twelve-year-old Japanese girl growing up alone, trying to make sense of a tragedy that makes no sense at all....

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this quietly moving novel--the first of the publisher's multicultural imprint--Mori poetically conveys the sentiments of an Asian girl who has lost her mother to suicide. Only a year afer Shizuko's death, Yuki's father marries the woman with whom he has been having a long-term affair. Deeply resentful of both her father and his bride, Yuki feels uncomfortable at home, which has been redecorated to suit her new stepmother's tastes. Running long distances and painting pictures that preserve memories of happier times are the only ways the girl is able to find consolation. Throughout this story, set in Kobe, Japan and spanning seven years, the author shows how Yuki's visions, attitudes and achievements are influenced by her mother's tragedy. Although most of the narrative is written from the protagonist's point of view, the thoughts of other characters (Yuki's father, stepmother and grandparents) are also depicted in brief yet perceptive segments. A cast of three- dimensional characters, keen imagery and attention to detail produce an emotionally and culturally rich tale tracing the evolution of despair into hope. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-- Shizuko kills herself, escaping a soured marriage, leaving her husband free to marry his mistress of eight years, and having vague ideas about making her daughter's life better. Yuki, 12, now faces a bleak world with a stepmother who tries to eradicate all traces of her predecessor and curtail the girl's visits to her mother's family. Her father is distant, taciturn, and guilt ridden, providing neither the support Yuki needs nor the discipline the stepmother wants him to exercise over the girl. Most of all, Yuki must cope with the loss of her mother and piece together some meaning for her death and ultimately for her life. Through strength and independence, Yuki comes to grips with her mother's memory, deals with her own current plight, and makes plans for the future. Readers leave her in college after a painful and poignant maturing. Mori's beautiful and sensitive prose evokes a world of pungent memories and harsh realities. Communication between characters often reflects the vagueness of language favored by the Japanese, pointing up Yuki's bluntness with great skill. Despite moments of warmth and humor and sharp insights into human motivations, Shizuko's Daughter is more often bleak, sad, and sometimes grim. Graceful in style, a tad grizzly in plot, and rather adult in tone, it is nonetheless a worthwhile novel about a resilient young woman's coming of age. --John Philbrook, San Francisco Public Library
Janice Del Negro
Yuki is 12 when her mother, Shizuko, commits suicide, leaving Yuki to a distant father and a self-serving stepmother. Forbidden by custom from seeing her mother's family, Yuki is left to fend for herself; and she does, falling back on the artistic talent she inherited from her mother. After an adolescence spent in protective, self-imposed, and largely unchallenged isolation, Yuki rises from her mother's ashes, leaving her father's house in Kobe to study art in Nagasaki, and taking her first steps toward a productive adulthood. A plot summation cannot convey Mori's accomplishment--her language and imagery evoke the beautiful and sometimes stifling sense of order that pervades Yuki's life. The harmony and tyranny of tradition are both present, made concrete by the comparison between the reverent home of Yuki's maternal grandparents and the sterile house so assiduously cleaned by her stepmother. Custom is both venerable and comforting, but Mori warns against its confinement in controlled, poetically crafted prose that is ultimately affirming. Mori has a fine eye for details that illuminate temperament and motivation, and her characters, especially Yuki, are well-realized and clearly drawn.
From the Publisher
"A cast of three-dimensional characters, keen imagery and attention to detail produce an emotionally and culturally rich tale tracing the evolution of despair into hope." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.22(w) x 6.86(h) x 0.47(d)
820L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Shizuko's Daughter

By Kyoko Mori

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 1993 Kyoko Mori
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-7674-3



(March 1969)

The village carpenter was standing on the bare rafters and throwing pink and white rice cakes to the crowd below. Shizuko lay on the couch in her living room in Kobe and dreamed that she was among the village children in red and blue kimonos chasing the hard, dry rice cakes that came down, like colored pebbles, from the sky. In the village where she was born, that was how people had celebrated the building of a new house. It was difficult to catch the cakes in midair. Shizuko stopped. She picked the cakes off the ground before the others trampled on them and wrapped them in her white handkerchief to take home for her mother to wash and toast over the fire. The other children were still running around. Shizuko noticed that they were not the children she had played with before the War, but her daughter Yuki's school friends. But where is Yuki? Shizuko wondered. She is not here because I am. She can't come until I am gone. The next moment, the house and the children had vanished. Shizuko was in a park. She was watching Yuki chasing the white cherry blossom petals that were blowing about in the wind. They were coming down like confetti. Yuki ran around and around the tree in her pink spring dress and caught the petals in midair. If she's not careful, Shizuko thought, she will fall. Shizuko tried to call her, but her voice would not come. Yuki continued to run in circles around the cherry tree.

* * *

The telephone was ringing in the hallway. Shizuko woke up and pushed aside her blanket. As she got up from the couch and walked slowly toward the noise, she thought: In a month, the cherry trees will be in blossom. It was strange to think that. Spring was late this year; the first week of March had been gray and damp. I won't be here to see, she thought. I wonder if the dead can see or smell the flowers. She thought of how her mother put fresh flowers on the Buddhist altar every week in memory of her son who had been killed in the War.

"Mama, can you hear me?" Yuki's voice sounded anxious on the other end as Shizuko picked up the receiver. In the background, a stereo was playing a symphony. "I'm calling from Miss Uozumi's house."

"What happened to your piano lesson?" Shizuko asked. "I thought you were supposed to be taking it now." She blinked and tried to clear her head. She was still thinking of Yuki running around the cherry tree in her dream.

"That's what I'm calling about," Yuki said. "Miss Uozumi's going to be about an hour late. Her mother let me in and gave me some tea. Miss Uozumi told her to have me wait. Is that all right?"

"That's fine," Shizuko said.

"I won't be home until five or five thirty, just in time for supper. Are you sure it's all right?"

"Of course," Shizuko said. "How was school?" She knew she was stalling. Let me hear her voice just a while longer, she thought. I can't let her go. Not yet.

"So-so," Yuki said. "I scored two runs in baseball. Two of the boys on the other team said I bragged about it, so I had a fight with them during lunch break. Don't worry, Mama. Nobody was really hurt, and the teacher didn't scold anyone. I scraped my knee a little when I fell down, but I punched one of them, right in the stomach. I was winning before the teacher came and stopped us. You're not worried, are you? I'm not hurt, really."

"You should be careful, Yuki," Shizuko said, remembering her dream. "You may get hurt someday."

"I don't think so. Most of the kids won't fight me anymore. They're afraid of me."

"Be careful all the same."

"Sure," Yuki said. "What are you going to do this afternoon? You sound kind of tired. Are you all right?"

"I just woke up from a nap."

"I didn't mean to wake you up. Do you want to go back to sleep?"

"No," Shizuko said. "I'm awake now."

Yuki seemed to hesitate. "You're sure you don't want me to come right away? I can fix supper."

"No," Shizuko said. "You should wait for your lesson. You prepared for it all week."

"But I can practice the same pieces another week. I'm sure Miss Uozumi won't mind. She's always telling me to practice more. I'll tell her mother I have to go home."

"Don't do that," Shizuko said. "I'm only tired. You'd better go now."

"All right. I'll come home as soon as I'm done. Maybe we can eat out — then you won't have to cook. I'm sure Father won't come home for supper. Can we go out to eat?"

"Maybe," Shizuko said. Her own voice sounded strange. She wondered if Yuki could hear it. "Yuki," she said. "Be good. You know I love you."

"I love you too, Mama. I'll see you later."

Shizuko held the receiver for a moment and waited for Yuki to hang up. When the click did not come, she hesitated for another moment and then put down the receiver. She pictured Yuki waiting on the other end for her to hang up first, her face puzzled and uncertain.

Shizuko went to the den, where she kept her sewing machine, ironing board, knitting basket, and a small desk for writing letters and taking care of the bills. Perhaps I haven't done so badly, she told herself as she thought of her fifteen years of marriage. Then she saw the cloth she had cut out for Yuki's new skirt and pinned to the sewing board. Triangular pieces of white cotton and maroon trimming, they reminded her of butterfly wings. She had meant to finish the skirt. But it was nearly three now; there was just enough time to write two notes — one for her husband, Hideki, and one for Yuki.

Somebody else will finish the skirt for her, Shizuko thought as she sat down at the desk and picked up her pen. She looked at the pad of blank paper and tried to concentrate. There was so much she had planned to do — she had even meant to clean out her closet and drawers, throw away some things and pack the rest to be saved for Yuki or given away to relatives. She had wanted to spare the others the trouble, the unpleasantness. She remembered the rainy morning after her mother-in-law's death, two years earlier. Her father-in-law and her husband had left her and Yuki, only ten at the time, to dispose of the clothes and jewelry and books. "This is an awful thing to have to do," Yuki had said as she poured mothballs into a box of clothes to be given away to charity. "Why don't they help?" "It's women's work," Shizuko had told her. It's always women's work, she thought now as she sat at the desk with a sheet of blank paper, to deal with the consequences of other people's deaths, their mistakes, broken promises.

She did not know how to begin her note for Hideki. She thought of how she had wasted the day trying to put her things in order. In the end, she had given up. Unable to continue with her packing, she had moved about the house, straightening the vases and pictures in the living room, cleaning the windows in the kitchen, polishing the mirror in her room — all aimless tasks now — until she had lain down on the couch under the blanket and fallen asleep. Even that had seemed aimless, her need for temporary rest, when rest was all that was before her. And now, it was past three and she had barely enough time to write the two notes.

Please forgive me, she started to write in large, bold letters, for my weakness, for the trouble I have caused you. As I have forgiven your coldness, she thought, all the hours and days you were too busy to spare for Yuki and me, even the nights you have spent with another woman. These things I have forgiven, have had to forgive. I do not do this rashly, she continued, but after much consideration. This is best for all of us. Please do not feel guilty in any way. What has happened is entirely my responsibility. This is the best for myself as well as for you. I am almost happy at this last hour and wish you to be.

She signed the note and took out another sheet of paper. She knew what she wanted to tell Yuki. In spite of this, she wrote, please believe that I love you. People will tell you that I've done this because I did not love you. Don't listen to them. When you grow up to be a strong woman, you will know that this was for the best. My only concern now is that you will be the first to find me. I'm sorry. Call your father at work and let him take care of everything. Shizuko stopped to read over what she had written. This is the best I can do for her, she thought, to leave her and save her from my unhappiness, from growing up to be like me. Yuki had so much to look forward to. At twelve, she was easily the brightest in her class; all her teachers said so. The art teacher had been particularly impressed by her watercolors. They reflected, he said, her bold intelligence and imagination as well as her skills. You are a strong person, Shizuko continued. You will no doubt get over this and be a brilliant woman. Don't let me stop or delay you. I love you. As she signed the note, Shizuko pictured Yuki running to her in her new skirt, the white cotton and the maroon trimmings fluttering in the spring breeze like the sail of a new ship. Only, I won't be there to catch you, she thought, but you will do fine by yourself. You will be all right.

It was nearly four o'clock. I must hurry now, Shizuko thought. She walked to the kitchen, closed the door behind her, and laid the two notes on the table. Through the clear windows above the sink, she could see the fir trees in the backyard. Their dark foliage loomed against the damp gray sky.

She hesitated a second before she turned on the gas. No, she told herself as she turned it on. There's nothing I've left undone that can be done now, there is nothing now, and I must sit down. She sat on the floor, with the table and chair legs rising above her head, and thought, This must be how the world looks to children, huge shapes, and lines going nowhere. The gas smelled almost sweet, but it was a foul sort of sweetness. The smell reminded her of the tiny yellow flowering weeds that had grown near her parents' house, on her way to school. The flowers, shaped like little stars, had smelled foul and sweet. She could not remember what they were called. In the fall, they would turn into white fuzz that flew about and got caught in her hair.

"I am almost happy at this last hour," she repeated the last words of her note to her husband, "and I wish you to be." No, she thought, suddenly springing up to her feet. I cannot say that. That is a lie. I cannot, must not, tell a lie now. She was dizzy. She groped for the notes on the table — it was hard to tell which was which now — found the right one, and sat back on the floor with it in her hand.

She could scarcely breathe. I can't light a match now, she thought. Shizuko held the note near her face for another moment, making sure that it was the one she wanted, and then tore it into tiny bits. Sick for breath, she tossed up the bits of paper and watched them come down like confetti, like the white petals of cherry blossoms, and the rice cakes falling from the rafters midway to the sky, before she gave herself up to the near-approaching darkness.



(March 1969)

The men were rearranging the living room for the wake. Upstairs, her aunt Aya, just arrived on the afternoon southbound train from Tokyo, began to put the clothes into wooden storage boxes for the attic. Yuki took down her mother's blue housecoat from the bathroom door and brought it to her aunt. A whole day had passed since her mother's death. Her father had not touched a single thing that had belonged to her mother, as though he thought of death as contagious.

Aya took the housecoat from Yuki and put it away. "You can wear some of these when you grow up," she said, her hand sweeping over the clothes inside the box.

Yuki sat down and watched as her aunt went back to the open closet. It was already half empty. Aya continued to take the remaining blouses and dresses off the hangers, fold them, and lay them inside the boxes. Off the hangers, the clothes suddenly collapsed and hung limp from Aya's hands. Yuki breathed in the faint smell of sawdust from the boxes. The soft silks and cottons Aya was putting away still smelled of her mother. They were mostly in shades of green and blue. Soon, the closet was empty and the boxes were full. Her aunt poured out a handful of mothballs into each box and closed the lid on her mother's colors. Yuki imagined the smell of mothballs and dust filtering through them in the dark.

Aya shut the closet door and went to the bureau. From the top drawers, she pulled out a handful of silk scarves and jewelry and turned back to Yuki. "You've been so good," she said. "At your age, it must be so difficult."

Yuki looked away and at the photograph on the wall. On its glass frame the late-afternoon sun cast weak shadows of the fir trees outside, their branches swaying now and then in the breeze. It was like a double exposure: the moving branches outside superimposed on the still photograph of her family three or four years ago. In the photograph her mother stood between Yuki and her father, one hand on his arm and the other on Yuki's shoulder.

"Nobody would think you were only twelve," Aya said. "The way you've been acting, with such composure." She began to fold the scarves and stack them up on a pile of small articles to be distributed among friends and relatives as keepsakes. "You didn't even cry once."

Yuki was sick of such remarks: "You've been so good," "You're only twelve," "So brave." It seemed as though no one had said anything else to her since late yesterday afternoon, when, coming home from her piano lesson, she had found her mother unconscious on the kitchen floor.

She had dropped her books, turned off the gas, and called her father at work. He had told her not to call an ambulance and create a commotion — he would fetch a doctor himself and come home immediately. While she waited for them, Yuki opened the windows to let out the gas. Then she sat down and touched her mother's forehead. It felt surprisingly cool. The air from the windows might be too cold, she thought. She went and lowered the windows. Her mother was no longer breathing, and Yuki was not sure exactly when her breath had stopped. Now, a day later, the smell of gas seemed to cling to Yuki's clothes, her hair. She washed her hair over and over to get it out, but it lingered.

After the doctor had said that there was no hope, Yuki walked into the den and found the white cotton and maroon trimmings cut out for her new skirt and laid out on the sewing board. The triangular pieces, with silver tacks scattered over them, looked like the remnants of a shipwreck. And Yuki thought: When did you decide to do it? Just this morning you were trying to sew.

Even then, she didn't cry. She picked up her mother's address book from the desk and went to the hallway to phone her relatives and friends, absentmindedly staring at her mother's handwriting, while her father was in the kitchen with the two policemen who had been called by the doctor.

The sound of jangling metal made Yuki look up. Her aunt was now going through the jewelry and cosmetics left in the other drawers. They went in two piles, to be saved or discarded. Most of the jewelry would be saved, except for bracelets whose clasps no longer fastened, odd earrings that did not match, all the small broken things her mother had kept. The cosmetics would be discarded. As Aya swept a handful of lipstick and eye shadow off the pile into the wastebasket, one roll of lipstick slipped through her fingers and fell on the floor. The cap came off and the lipstick rolled to the edge of the carpet.

"Your poor mother," Aya said. She turned aside and pressed her fingers to her eyes.

Yuki picked up the lipstick. Its tip, cut at a sixty-degree angle, had scarcely been blunted. She put the cap back on and dropped the roll in the wastebasket, thinking of how the lipstick, too, smelled of her mother.

* * *

She had not been downstairs since the early afternoon. Yuki stood at the door of the living room, unable to go in. The room looked completely unfamiliar. She couldn't believe it was the same room where she and her mother had sat listening to music or drawing together, drinking tea after dinner and talking. Yuki stared silently at the makeshift altar, the coffin in the center, the white and yellow chrysanthemums drenched in the smoke from the incense sticks. White drapery was everywhere, covering the floor and the walls in large, billowy folds. Yuki tried to remember where each piece of furniture had been: the armchair where her mother had sat, the glass table on which they had put their cups of tea and plates of cake, the footstool where she had sat, always close enough to reach over and hand her mother a drawing to look at or a book to read, the piano she had played while her mother closed her eyes, listening. All these things had been moved out of the room or shoved behind the drapery.


Excerpted from Shizuko's Daughter by Kyoko Mori. Copyright © 1993 Kyoko Mori. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Shizuko's Daughter 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A beautiful, heartbreaking book about growing up lonely, there is more to this book than seen on the surface. The book goes deeper than imagined, and the sometimes disjointed scenarios are a tragic view into the life of a seemingly forgotten daughter without a mother.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best book I have ever read and you should read it I reack amend it
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anyone having suffered the loss of a parent or loved one can appreciate this tragically beautiful work depicting the growth of someone whose life has been shattered by the death of her mother. With amazing accuracy, Mori reveals the nuances that make moving on so difficult.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was very good. I could really feel her emotions when she heard about her mother's death. It showed alot what she was going through, and i would suggest this book to anyone who wants a sad and touching story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I picked out this book in elemetary school to write a book report I had no idea how much it would influence me. After reading this sad tale, I became intruged with Japanese customs. Now I am taking a course in Japanese language in hopes to become a translator. It all start with that book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first picked up Shizuko's Daughter in 7th grade, and was entranced and intrigued by the alien nature of her life and attitude. People who are neither acclimated nor interested in the specific nature of Japanese sentiment and thinking may find the book boring. Those willing to understand that this book is by a Japanese writer and is about a Japanese girl will love it. The strange chronology and vividly detailed events in Yuki's life, be they brief memories or an ongoing part of her girlhood, both serve to make the book a unique and captivating read. Now a college student, this book is still something I turn to when I want to put myself in a more lyrical frame of mind for my own writing. Both matter of fact and subtly emotional, Shizuko's Daughter is an amazing book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Shizuko's Daughter was a really wonderful book, I enjoyed every page of it. The author really paints a picture to where you can just see everything that is going on, you can feel the characters emotions. I really recommend this book to everyone. I loved it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is so touching. this is by far the best book i have ever read. this is a book i know i will read again and again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a really great read! The characters were very real...I ahev to say that now, it's my fave book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like the way this book is written. It has wonderful description. I was even able to feel what Yuki, which is Shizuko's Daughter was feeling. Being a teen is hard. Especially when you basically have no relashionship with your parents. Yuki is actually someone to look up to becasue she kept on going and didn't let her evil stepmother bring her down from her goals. I recommend this book to everyone. It really made me thankful for everything I have.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Shizuko's Daughter was a truly magnificant story of a girl named Yuki who's mother commited suicide when she was 12 and having to live with her fathers new wife. I enjoyed this book and read it in a recond amount of time for myself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Shizuko's Daughter was a wonderful story that I read for Honors 9 Geography. It was a story of a girl named Yuki whose mother committed suicide when she was twelve. She was then left her with her father who she wasn't very close to and a year later a step-mother, who also thought of Yuki as a burden. It tells about the theme of Movement since Yuki moved a few times and was transported by train and sometimes a motorcycle. I really enjoyed this author's style of writing because she used great description that paints a picture for the reader. It also keeps the reader's attention. I didn't learn a great deal of information about this country reading this because it wasn't the kind of book where the land was talked about much. The story remained focused pretty well on the main storyline; although, I did learn about Japan's four major islands--I was not aware of those before. The author's presentation of the subject made me feel beyond satisfied. She very clearly told what she was talking about and the story line was very clear. This book was definitely written at my level (It says on the cover that this is a book for young adults),because it didn't jump around and there weren't difficult words to decipher, and it definitely kept my interests--I couldn't set it down. I definitely recommend this book to others because it is a very enjoyable book and it may give tips on how to deal with such hard times such as losing a loved one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Shizukos Daughter is a book of love compasion and hate! It is about a young girl named Yuki whose mother commits suicide and leaves her daughter with her husband. Yuki does not want to stay with him because he dosn't love her and if he did he dose not show it! Then a stepmother comes into the picture and she flat right out hates her guts! One time she even pushed her down the stairs. All because she couldn't have a babie of her own. So read Shizukos Daughter because it is an amazing book with and amazing author!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have never been so into a book in my life that I wanted to sit and read it all in one sitting. This book did that to me. I am reading it for English Class right now and it actually makes me pay attention.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Yukis mother comits a suicide. Her father got merrird one year later. Yukis now stepmother hates her and everything that has to do with Shizukos mother, Yukis father didn't love her earther. Because it was forbbidden by a custom she can' see her mothers family. So tvelwe year old girl left with out anyone!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Yuki (the main character) does something, she gets a flashback. She doe something else, she gets a flashback. Bottom line: who cares? The entire book consists of boring, overly-described flashbacks. The storyline goes nowhere. It has no plot. Read this book if you're in need of a good nap.