Apologies for the gap in postings - Nikkei Book Club is going through some format changes which are not yet finalized. While we work on that, I want to give you a space to discuss our scheduled next book, The Letter Opener by Kyo Maclear. Here are some thoughts from me on the first four chapters:
What I find most interesting so far I think is something I would describe as the book’s sense of the world – which I know sounds pretty broad. What I mean by that is this: the narrator Naiko is Nikkei, her boyfriend is from Argentina, her coworkers Andrei and Baba are from Romania and Lebanon, respectively. There’s a very casual sense of multiculturalism as we’re introduced to each of these characters, even as Naiko repeatedly describes her world as sheltered and protected by her routine as a solitary office worker. But at the same time, this section describing the ESL education of Andrei and his fellow refugees jumps out at me:
Urged on by an exuberant ESL teacher, they mouthed the language of parrots: Hi, how are you? Nice day, isn’t it? Would you care for a coffee? Their accents slowed them down, but no more than if they had been taught to say: Do you know what’s happening in my country? Do you know what brought me here? (page 29)
So far all the characters we know in Naiko’s world, other than presumably Naiko, appear to be immigrants from places much less safe and sheltered than Ontario in 1989. What does it say that Naiko is surrounded by these people within her sheltered existence? How much access do they have to her safe and routine-based world, and how much access does she have to the things they’ve lived through that brought them to Ontario? Do you think they can or will find true common ground and intimacy, or do they seem alienated from Naiko?
I’m also curious what you thought of the list of Andrei’s things at the beginning of the book: do any of the objects jump out at you? What impression do they give you of Andrei? Also, by the end of chapter four, I’ve noticed Naiko explain the leather shoes the colour of dark grapes the Mamas and Papas LP record, and maybe the brass belt buckle. Did I miss any others that appear in the first four chapters?
Also, here's a short, interesting review of the novel by acclaimed Canadian author Guy Beauregard which touches on its major themes without spoiling the plot: http://canlit.legacy.arts.ubc.ca/reviews/scrawled_with_histories
Please feel welcome to share your thoughts on the book so far - the first four chapters, or wherever you are in your reading. I'll post again when I've finished finalizing our format changes, but in the meantime, let the discussion go on!