As a past graduate specialist in Japanese Culture, Literature, and Politics, I am always looking for any books on Japan! When I came across A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding, I was immediately impressed with the author's introduction of a Japanese cultural concept at the beginning of each chapter of the novel. For example:
Konjo:This is a key word in the understanding Japanese stoicism, which has been practised by the male population since feudal times.
Seldom have I witnessed an ability to express complex Japanese cultural concepts in such a direct and understandable way, and I immediately wanted to read this book - which turned out to be one of the most creative and intriguing novels I have ever read.
The story is told through letters and the first-person narrative of Amaterasu Takahashi, a victim of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki who flees to the United States to escape her horrific past. To her surprise, a man claiming to be her grandson - who, she thought, was killed during the bombing - shows up at her doorstep in the U.S. As he attempts to convince her that he indeed is her lost grandson, the story develops. The author has an ability to jump into the past and trace the lives of all who were connected to Amaterasu, always using the tragic bombing as a backdrop.
This novel has been compared to Snow Falling On Cedars, but it is my belief that A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding is simply so unique and powerful it can be compared to none. In Japanese thought, an item that is unique cannot be associated with something else because it has a soul of its own. Truly A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding fits into this category and will touch your soul! - Henry (Downtown)