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4.6 5
by Frances Itani, Brian Nishii (Read by)

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“Remarkable . . . Requiem delicately probes the complex adjustments we make to live with our sorrows. . . . [A] perfectly modulated novel.”—The Washington Post

An extraordinary researcher and scholar of detail, Frances Itani—author of the best-selling novel Deafening—excels at weaving breathtaking fiction


“Remarkable . . . Requiem delicately probes the complex adjustments we make to live with our sorrows. . . . [A] perfectly modulated novel.”—The Washington Post

An extraordinary researcher and scholar of detail, Frances Itani—author of the best-selling novel Deafening—excels at weaving breathtaking fiction from true-life events. In her new novel, she traces the lives, loves, and secrets in one Japanese-Canadian family during and after their internment in the 1940s.

In 1942, in retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Canadian 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 Bin, as a young boy, was forced to watch neighbors raid his family’s home before the transport boats even undocked. One hundred miles from the “Protected Zone,” they had to form new 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 Canada 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 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

Brilliance Audio
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5.50(w) x 5.00(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Frances Itani is the author of Deafening, winner of a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Drummer General’s Award, and short-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; and Remembering the Bones, short-listed for a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

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Requiem 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
ChelseaManchester More than 1 year ago
The alternation of current time with the childhood of the protagonist gives the reader two stories along the same thread. It is very interesting to compare this novel of the internment of the Japanese in Canada with other fictional accounts, such as Dallas' Tallgrass and Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars. Each is written from a different perspective, and each gives voice to the American and Canadian citizens who were torn from the homes and yet somehow retained their dignity. Requiem is a book worthy of discussion and much thought. Its themes of family, trust, hardship, and the importance of the arts make it a good book club book, as well as a novel that will appeal to many readers of good fiction.
hollandTN More than 1 year ago
Great story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thia waa an amazing journey...beautifully written.
arlenadean More than 1 year ago
Author: Frances Itani Published By: Atlantic Monthly Press Age Recommended: Adult Reviewed By: Arlena Dean Book Blog For: GMTA Rating: 4 Review: "Requiem" by Frances Itani was wonderful written novel that gives a revealing look into the Japanese internment of the Canadians in British Colombian following the bombing of Pearl Harbour, during World War Two in 1942. This author has weaved this story into past and present with a 'heart felt family story shedding light on a painful period of Canada's history when those of Japanese descent were interned.' I felt this was a fascinating story how this man's journey back to his past with his friend...his dog and memories of his wife...along with him in the front seat. This novel is of Bin Okuma who was a Canadian painter of Japanese descent and was married to a Canadian girl...had one son...wife dies...now going on a journey to West Coast...to find that his 'first-father' is ageing...having not been close to his father... Bin now decides to see his father...and goes the story and the part that I say to find out father you must pick up "Requiem" and find out what memories will come back to him during has childhood...with his family...their previous life as fisherman until the boasts were confiscated and then there travel to the camp in British Columbia. In this novel you will see how the author brings to the writer three time frames: "the distant past, when Bin lived with his family in an internment camp, the recent past, with memories of his life with his wife and son in Canada, and the current day, the road journey across Canada with his dog, Basil." This was a different read for me because I hadn't read about the experiences of the Japanese in Canada. Having done so, I found "Requeim" a very interesting read. I thought that the characters were very well developed with this novel showing much feeling, grief and even consolation and yes, I would recommend this novel as a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago