The Woman in the White Kimono
In her first historical novel, Ana Johns explores the tragic fate of the relationships between American servicemen and Japanese women, and their children, in post-World War II Japan. Both Americans and Japanese vehemently opposed these interracial relationships, and their children were outcasts or orphaned. The narrative is told in two time periods. The first section is in 1950s Japan. Nakao Nakamura is an eighteen-year-old who falls in love with Jimmy, an American serviceman. Her family is against the relationship, and eventually the two lovers are ripped apart by forces beyond their control. In the present day, Tori Kovač is a journalist whose father, Jimmy, is dying of cancer. After his death, Tori begins to unravel the mystery of Jimmy’s relationship with Nakao, with whom he had a child, and along the way, she discovers more about herself and her father.
The Woman in the White Kimono is a promising first novel, bringing an important part of history to light. Exploring themes of racism, love, and family relationships, Johns weaves an enlightening tale of love and loss. But the character of Tori needs to have more depth; the reader has no idea what she looks like, and she has few relationships with other people. Tori is completely focused on uncovering her father’s secrets, and that is the extent of what one knows about her, making it hard to connect with her. Nakao, though, is more fleshed out. She is a modern Japanese woman who is still tethered to traditions but wants to break free from these constraints. Overall, Johns’ book is entertaining and an easy read.