Sophie and the Rising Sun

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Overview

An unforgettable story of an extraordinary love and a town's prejudice during World War II. Sophie and the Rising Sun "suggests the small but heartwarming triumphs made possible by human dignity and courage." -Publisher's Weekly.

In sleepy Salty Creek, Georgia, strangers are rare. When a quiet, unassuming stranger arrives-a Japanese man with a secret history of his own-he becomes the talk of the town and a new beginning for lonely Sophie, who ...

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Sophie and the Rising Sun

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Overview

An unforgettable story of an extraordinary love and a town's prejudice during World War II. Sophie and the Rising Sun "suggests the small but heartwarming triumphs made possible by human dignity and courage." -Publisher's Weekly.

In sleepy Salty Creek, Georgia, strangers are rare. When a quiet, unassuming stranger arrives-a Japanese man with a secret history of his own-he becomes the talk of the town and a new beginning for lonely Sophie, who lost her first love during World War I.

Middle-aged Sophie had resigned herself to a passionless existence. That all begins to change as she finds herself drawn to the mysterious Mr. Oto. When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Mr. Oto's newfound life comes under siege; his safety, even in Salty Creek, is no longer certain. Sophie must decide how much she is willing to risk for a future with the man who has brought such joy into her life.

Visit the author at: www.AugustaTrobaugh.com

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Editorial Reviews

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Bound to draw comparisons to David Guterson's award-winning debut, Snow Falling on Cedars, Augusta Trobaugh's Southern novel has a completely different setting, but she is clearly Guterson's equal in setting a scene and character development. Sophie and the Rising Sun, set in small-town Georgia in the 1940s, is a moving and surprisingly timely novel that explores what happens when love blooms in dangerous times. Sophie, the title character, is a local spinster who has spent her youth and early adulthood caring for her mother and two elderly aunts (who have since passed on), and she is now resigned to living the rest of her life alone. Things take a turn when Sophie meets Mr. Oto, a quiet, foreign-looking newcomer who lives in a cottage owned by Sophie's childhood friend, the widow Miss Anne. Sophie finds herself drawn to Mr. Oto's gentle ways and artistic sensibilities. For his part, Mr. Oto admires Sophie's mature beauty; she awakens in him a story he had heard as a child, the tale of a crane transformed into a bride when a poor woodcutter cares for her. But the small-minded townspeople are suspicious of Mr. Oto. When Pearl Harbor is attacked, many begin to suspect that he may be Japanese and see in him the face of the enemy. In our own uncertain times, Augusta Trobaugh's novel seems piercingly familiar. (Winter 2002 Selection)
Publishers Weekly
Part Remains of the Day, part wartime drama, this delicately written, somewhat didactic novel is set in Salty Creek, Ga., in the two years before Pearl Harbor. It focuses on Miss Anne, the moral center of the community, and on her recollection, years later, of the romance between town spinster Sophie and Grover Cleveland Oto, the California-born 50-year-old everyone thinks of as Miss Anne's "Chinese" gardener. Both Sophie and Oto harbor secrets. Sophie's is that the man she loved didn't return from WWI; Oto's is that happenstance and a Greyhound bus driver left him in Salty Creek, starved and in disgrace, far from his Japanese-American family. For two years the two are preternaturally aware of each other, but constrained from anything but brief, polite conversation. Each is a painter, and artistic imagination sustains both. In time, they fall into the habit of meeting at the riverbank on Sunday mornings with brushes and paper to work in companionable silence while the other townsfolk sing hymns at church. The requisite town snoop and the presence of Sophie and Anne's household help ensures that Oto and Sophie keep a formal distance, but as the author's lyrical flights intensify, so does the couple's suppressed passion. Then the war unleashes cruelty disguised as patriotism and forces Oto into hiding. As in her earlier novel Praise Jerusalem!, Trobaugh depicts in aching detail the isolation that racism occasions, and once again suggests the small but heartwarming triumphs made possible by human dignity and courage. (Nov.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
It's 1941, and small-town spinster Sophie has fallen in love with a completely inappropriate fellow. Mr. Oto, a Japanese American gardener, years older, has captured her heart. The growth of their relationship is a gradual, tentative, even poetic event. However, the bombing of Pearl Harbor soon complicates this friendship. The townspeople of Sophie's Georgia burg are suspicious of outsiders and of any unconventional behavior. After the bombing, Mr. Oto must go into hiding while his landlady, Miss Anne, and Sophie both bravely conspire to hide and feed him. The end of the story brings the sudden disappearance of both Sophie and Mr. Oto, and it's up to readers to decide what this means for the protagonists. Trobaugh (Resting in the Bosom of the Lamb) has written another Southern novel featuring a beautiful and unusual love story. Recommended for all public libraries. Carol J. Bissett, New Braunfels P.L., TX Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Second World War romance between a southern spinster and a Japanese gardener, by the author of Praise Jerusalem! (not reviewed), etc. Everyone in Salty Creek, Georgia, knows that taking care of her demanding, widowed mother and her crotchety maiden aunts left Sophie Willis no chance to marry. Though the town busybody is certain that she had a beau or two years ago, Sophie leads a quiet life now, painting watercolors and calling on other ladies. Then a Greyhound bus, the deus ex machina of so many southern tales, brings Mr. Oto to Salty Creek. Half-starved, sick, and delirious, he's nursed back to health by the doctor's wife Eulalie and taken in by Miss Anne, who lets him live in a small cabin behind her house in exchange for gardening. Soon Mr. Oto has transformed the weedy yard into a verdant paradise and fallen in love with Sophie, who stops by to observe his progress. He's ashamed to tell anyone how he ended up so far from his California home: When his aged father sent him, a man past 50, to New York with insultingly careful instructions to bring back his aunt, poor Mr. Oto lost all his money to street hustlers who beat him up, although he did find someone else's bus ticket. The lonely man's dreams of Sophie and visions of a huge crane, the Japanese symbol of marital fidelity and happiness, assure him Sophie is his one and only. She in turn is inexorably drawn to him-until the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, and Mr. Oto knows he must leave. Miss Anne hides him in a cabin down by the river, where he and Sophie consummate their forbidden passion in chastely lyrical prose. A hurricane threatens, and so does the town busybody, who delights in making trouble, especially for Sophie. But loveconquers all. Fussbudget style sinks a well-meaning romancer.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553528862
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/30/2001
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 4 cassettes, 6 hrs. 30 min.
  • Product dimensions: 4.44 (w) x 7.09 (h) x 1.19 (d)

Meet the Author

Augusta Trobaugh, a semifinalist in the 1993 Pirates Alley Faulkner Competition, has written two previous novels, Praise Jerusalem! and Resting in the Bosom of the Lamb.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Miss Anne said:

    Some folks in this town still think I know what really happened to Sophie—leastwise those folks old enough to remember Pearl Harbor and the terrible days that followed.

    Why, to this very day—over twenty years later—once in a while, somebody will say to me, "Miss Anne, you can tell me what really happened to Sophie, now that it's been so long."

    But I can't tell them.

    Because I was never sure.

    And I guess the reason they ask in the first place is that most of us still care about Sophie and want to know that she's all right.

    To be truthful, I guess everybody in town—leastwise those old enough to remember—always felt a little bit bad for Sophie, how she wasted all her youth and beauty—and to be perfectly truthful, there was precious little of the latter—taking care of her mama and those two old aunts. Everybody used to say that one day, Sophie would just up and run off and get married. When she was younger, I mean. But she never did. Guess you have to have a young man to do something like that, and I don't think there was anyone who was interested in her.

    There was a little talk about a beau, just before the Great War—World War One—but most of those boys never came home again. Boyd and Andrew and Henry and others whose names I can't remember now, so if there was ever someone who was interested in Sophie—and I doubt it—he must have been one of them. It really didn'tmatter, anyway, because if anyone had come around about Sophie, her mama and the aunts would have nipped that right in the bud. I'm sure of it.

    "Nothing lasts," her mama used to say. "So no use in Sophie getting started with it."

    Sophie's mama was always like that. Bitter, in general. And about men, in particular. How on earth she ever agreed to marry any man is beyond me. All I can say is that Mr. Willis must have slipped her some elderberry wine or something. Because they only kept company for about a month or so, and the whole time, everybody in town could hear her berating him in a loud voice, right there on her front porch when he came courting. But he just kept on coming. Sat right there in the swing and smiled off into space while she went into tirade after tirade. Maybe she finally wore herself out.

    Mr. Willis was quite elderly, and I guess he'd learned plenty of patience. Of course, Sophie's mama was certainly no spring chicken herself, by then, but she hadn't learned anything about patience. Never did, to tell the truth. But I guess one thing that kept Mr. Willis coming around was that he figured it was his last chance to get married.

    So—somehow or other—he got her to the church.

    Then he took her off on a grand honeymoon trip to New Orleans for two whole weeks, and when he brought her back, she was with child—we found out later. Only about a week after that, Mr. Willis died in his sleep. Left her a well-off widow with a nice, big house. And he left her Sophie, too, though she didn't realize that right away. And of course, that was certainly some surprise when she found that out. She sent right off to Atlanta for her two old maid sisters—Elsa and Minnie—to come and live with her. And they did.

    But goodness, what a time they had of it, especially right at first. Because Sophie's mama must have thought that they were going to wait on her hand and foot, and those older sisters must have thought the same thing about her waiting on them. Led to an awful lot of fussing and pouting, it did. But eventually, they learned how to get along right well, I guess.

    And of course, they were happy about the baby that was coming, so that settled them down a bit. Almost every single evening for months, you could see them sitting together on the porch, crocheting to beat the band—with their heads down and their crochet needles just flashing away. Went at it with a vengeance, they did. Why, by the time that baby was ready to come, they had enough clothes for a whole army of babies! Caps and sacques and booties and sweaters and blankets. But of course, not a single one of them could crochet worth a flip, so the sweaters all had one long sleeve and one short, and the caps would have fit a watermelon, they were so big. And the blankets came out shaped like triangles, for the most part. Still, they did their best, and I guess their hearts were in the right place.

    Well, the baby started coming on a Thursday morning—and it turned out to be the longest labor in the history of Salty Creek. By Friday night, everybody in town could hear the screaming, and around noon on Saturday, she was shrieking, "Shoot me! For God's sake, somebody shoot me!"

    I was hardly more than a child myself. Only twelve or thirteen, and my mama made me stay in the back part of our house so I wouldn't hear any more than she could help. Wouldn't even let me sit out on the porch.

    The doctor came and went at their house until Saturday afternoon, and after that, he never left until the baby finally arrived, around church-time on Sunday. Folks said that when he came out about an hour later, he looked like he'd been run over by a train, he did. Went straight home, his wife said, drank a fifth of bourbon, and slept for two whole days. Later, he told her he'd never seen anything like it. Just flat out a little baby that didn't want to be born. "I had to drag it out!" he said. "And God only knows what-all it was hanging on to!"

    Sophie's mama always said the birth ruined her health. And I guess all the hand-wringing and the hollering and the running into each other the elder sisters did must have taken a toll, too. Because they said the birth ruined their health as well. So that as soon as Sophie could toddle around and understand when they told her to go get their crocheting for them or another pillow to rest their feet on, or a clean hanky, they had her doing everything for them. All the time. Just like she owed them something.

    It must have been hard for Sophie, waiting on them hand and foot from the time she was just a little thing. And growing up under the black little bird-eyes of those women. And none of them young. In a house full of medicine bottles and handkerchiefs and smelling salts. And boredom.

    That's why I say that if there was ever a beau for Sophie, they would have nipped that right in the bud. Because they weren't about to give up the one who ran around and waited on them. Besides, Sophie would have told me if there had been someone. I'm sure of it.

    So she never did marry. Just took care of those old ladies and grew older and more faded-looking herself, every single year, what with them getting so elderly and so much more demanding and living for such a long time. And Sophie's mama, especially, was always hard to get along with. When she got older, she took to doing some strange things, like collecting dead birds she'd find out in the yard from time to time. Take them right inside the house and lay them out on a shelf in the pantry. Such as that.

    She was the first one to pass on, Sophie's mama was, and I always thought somebody ought to have put her on a shelf in the pantry, too—let her see how she liked having that done to her. But of course, they didn't. Then a few years later, Sophie's Aunt Elsa passed on. Her Aunt Minnie was the only one left after that, and she was just as senile as a coot for a long time before she finally passed away. Used to sneak out of the house almost every night and wander around in the front yard in her nightgown, calling and calling for her mama. Can you imagine? Sophie never had a whole night's sleep for all the years that went on, but she didn't complain about it. Not even to me.

    Afterward, when they were all gone at last—her Aunt Minnie passing on only a few months after Mr. Oto came to stay in my gardener's cottage—folks thought then maybe Sophie would do a little traveling or something like that. But she didn't. Just went about doing what she'd always done—taking care of the house and tending to her crab traps and painting some pictures down by the river. I guess by then it was too late for much of anything else.

    But I'll say this about Sophie: She was a real lady. One of the few left in this whole town, someone who was raised right—whatever other faults her mama and the aunts may have had. So Sophie always came calling on me—and she was the only one who still kept up that fine old tradition.

    I was a little bit older, of course, and I'd known Sophie all her life, knew her better than is usual in small towns like this one, where everybody knows everybody else, anyway. Because when I was a young lady—and already being courted by my late husband—Sophie was just a little girl, and even then, I thought she was very special.

    Maybe it had something to do with the way I'd always wanted a sister. Someone younger than me to look up to me and share her little secrets with me. Sophie was the closest I had to that. But of course, her mama didn't let her get away very often, so it didn't blossom into a real friendship—like sisters—it could have been. Still, I always thought she was a precious little thing.

    I remember one twilight evening when I was sitting in the porch swing, and Sophie came skipping down the road right in front of my house—she couldn't have been more than six or seven—and waved her fingers at me as she went by. Must have gotten away from her mama for a few minutes. She was wearing a white pinafore and skipping and singing right down the middle of the road, and I thought she looked so pretty that day. And, too, there was something about the way it was, right at dusk, that made me think she looked just like a little white egret, ruffling its feathers this way and that. But if her mama had seen her, she'd have had a fit.

    "Keep your skirt down, Sophie!" she would have admonished. "And behave like a lady!" Like I said, whatever other faults Sophie's mama had, she certainly raised Sophie to be a real lady.

    I don't know why that particular image of Sophie stands out like it does in my mind. But then, we never do know how it's going to be with us when we get older.

    Anyway, when she was just a little girl, Sophie used to come over to my house some afternoons, whenever her mama would let her, and she'd play dress-up, draping herself all over with my scarves, and sometimes, I'd let her put some of my face powder on her nose. Other times, she liked just lying across the front of my bed and watching me mending my silk stockings or making some tatted lace for the pillowcases in my hope chest.

    "What's a hope chest?" she asked me once. It was a rainy Saturday afternoon, I remember.

    "It's where you keep all the things you fix up for when you're a married lady," I told her.

    "Is that what you're supposed to hope for? Is that why it's called a hope chest?"

    "I think so. And yes, it's what every young lady hopes for."

    "Not me," Sophie said in a voice strong with that particular kind of certainty children have.

    "Yes—you, too," I assured her, enjoying the little proclamation she had made. And her absolute confidence in it.

    "No," she insisted. "'Cause Mama wouldn't let me."

    "She would if you were a grown-up young lady," I explained, and then I amended that: "She will when you're a grown-up young lady."

    "I don't think so," Sophie said matter-of-factly.

    I was really quite amused at her earnestness about it. As I said, she was such a precious little girl. Other folks may have thought that she was plain-looking, but I always thought it was just that she'd never had a chance to be free. Or happy, maybe.

    By the time Sophie was a young lady, I was already married and had a home of my own—this house, built by my late husband's grandfather, the one who started this whole town. And I think that one of the reasons Sophie particularly liked calling on me was because she enjoyed being with someone who really had a life of her own, if you know what I mean. Not just living right in the same house where she was born, like she did. Years later, after my husband passed on and when all Sophie's old ladies were gone at last, she just kept on coming to call on me anyway.

    Such a lady, she was. That's why I don't ... Well, I'm not sure what happened. About two years after Mr. Oto first came to work for me, it was, if I'm remembering it right. Because after all, it was such a long time ago.

     Right around Halloween, and nobody knew what was coming to us in that terrible December.


Excerpted from Sophie and the Rising Sun by Augusta Trobaugh. Copyright © 2001 by Augusta Trobaugh. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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Reading Group Guide


Question: Sophie does not seem to have much of a life in Salty Creek beyond her reading group and her painting. What keeps her in this town?


Question: One of Sophie's few childhood friends was Sally, a friendship Sophie's mother put to an end when she discovered it. Given that Sophie grew up in an environment that fostered prejudice and segregation, how is it that she is able to see beyond the close-mindedness she had been taught?


Question: Is Miss Ruth or Miss Anne more emblematic of the town of Salty Creek? Why?


Question: Is it a feeling of patriotism, a feeling of friendship, or some combination of both that causes Miss Anne to hide Mr. Oto?


Question: Japan is known as "The Land of the Rising Sun," but in the terms of this novel, could the image of a rising sun mean something more?


Question: What is the significance of Mr. Oto's first and middle names?


Question: Sally suggests, and Sophie agrees that, "you got to have bad feelings toward some folks...because they do things [that are] bad." Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?


Question: Does Sally's method of revenge against the women of Salty Creek- cleaning their houses with an intensity so as to "make all those white ladies feel like they been living in a pigsty before"-yield the results she seeks?


Question: Spiritual faith is an important theme in Sophie and the Rising Sun. How does it shape the lives of Mr. Oto, Miss Ruth, and Miss Anne, respectively?


Question: At the close of the novel, what do you think happened to Sophie and Mr. Oto?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

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(6)

4 Star

(2)

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(3)

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 25, 2012

    3.5 is a better rating on this book. This is the second book I h

    3.5 is a better rating on this book. This is the second book I have read by this author. This is set during WWII and is about a middle-aged woman named Sophie who is drawn to a man with Japanese roots. Their friendship becomes complicated when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. I can definitely see a sequel to this book. One that I would enjoy reading as well.

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  • Posted May 13, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Short, simple, and sweet - a perfect quick romantic read

    "...This is a story partly about love, and partly about that love not being confined to social constructs like race. For those of you who like their romance toned-down, this is especially a book for you, I think, as there is no smut at all..."

    For full review, please visit me at Here Be Bookwyrms on Blogger:

    herebebookwyrms dot blogspot dot com

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

    A Love Story, but Not a Romance novel

    Sophie and thwe Rising Sun is the story of a Japanese man and southern spinster who find love just before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The story unfolds gently, giving the reader a view into the prejudices and biases that were magnified when the attack made Americans realize that they were as vulnerable as anyone else at times of war. I couldn't help but make mental comparisons with America post 911 when people became suspicious of anyone who may be from the Middle East....

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  • Posted November 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Romance about a Love that Breaks Boundaries

    Miss Anne, the moral compass of her quiet Georgia town Salty Creek, recalls the story of a seemingly impossible romance between two unlikely characters with whom she was once familiar. The year is 1939. Sophie, a lonely spinster who has acquiesced to a hopeless life devoid of passion after the death of her true love during World War I, immerses herself in creative endeavors. Meanwhile, brief but delicate exchanges between Sophie and Miss Anne's gardener, Mr. Oto, have helped her to become curious of the mysterious man's origins. Oto, a Japanese-American, is polite and soft, and he has secretly fallen in love with Sophie. After a short time, they have learned to take great solace from each other's company and spend Sunday mornings together by the riverbank painting in silence. As their companionship turns from safe to passionate, the world turns to hell, and Oto (despite his being California-born) is at great risk of persecution at the hands of townspeople blinded by their own simple-minded aggression. The bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces leads many Americans to a most severe response. Now, Miss Anne and Sophie help Mr. Oto to slip into hiding, but how long can he stay safe from misguided hatred and cruelty? Will Sophie and Oto's newfound love survive a trial of epic proportions? Find out where this unusual romance leads in Sophie and the Rising Sun, the latest novel from Augusta Trobaugh. Trobaugh is a specialist in the genre of romance, and this recent work of fiction is indicative of her knack for creating engaging stories that test the limitations of tradition and explore the potential of love to overcome even the greatest of obstacles. The novel delves into the boundaries imposed on human relationships in a world so often divided by wars, religion, and race. If you are a fan of well-crafted romance that challenges the reader, then look for Sophie and the Rising Sun by Augusta Trobaugh, now in bookstores everywhere.

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  • Posted January 27, 2009

    Glad I bought the book

    I enjoyed the book having remembered how these people were treated during WWII. Great characters. Quick read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2004

    A keeper

    Great story! Very original. Wanted to start reading it all over again as soon as I got to the last page.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2004

    A little different but great!

    I enjoyed this book. A beautiful story about love and about friendship. Great book with interesting characters - Big Sally was my favorite! I thought was different in that it was told from Miss Anne's first person point of view in some chapters and also from a third person point of view in other chapters. A unique story told in a unique fashion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2002

    Story about acceptance, love, hope

    This was such a beautiful story that made me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. I love the ending. It was not only a love story but a meaningful story about judging others and learning to accept and love and be loved. The reader nevers feels that hope is lost, which I loved. Really, really great!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2002

    Delightful, Uplifting

    A beautifully written story that easily transports the reader to 1940s Georgia. A story of beauty, hope and love; one that also reminds us that the United States is and always has been a wonderful melting pot of cultures.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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