Butterfly's Shadow - Lee Langley I do recommend this book, and I am very glad I read it, but perfect, it isn’t! Let me explain.

This is a book of historical fiction. Isn’t the main goal of this genre to teach about a passed time in history? I want historical fiction to make history come alive. I want to learn both the historical facts and to understand how the people who lived through the events felt! This story starts with Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, where Pinkerton, an American, has a child with a Japanese “wife”. They have a child. He returns and with his American fiancé /wife to take the child back to America. Then the Japanese mother commits suicide. That is the story of the opera. This story is what happens next, with a few alterations…… I will not tell you what is changed.

This story is about the child and his life in America and through his tale we are meant to learn about history. We learn about the years of the Depression, Roosevelt’s New Deal, Pearl Harbor, America’s involvement in the Second World War, the Japanese Internment Camps and finally the bombing of Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And more……. As you can imagine, the central theme is about being Japanese in America during these years. It is also about being Japanese while fighting on the side of the Allies. And I learned details about the antics of General McArthur….. . I have read about all this before, but I learned more. You learn about Japanese philosophy and semantics. I particularly liked the sections concerning the meaning and usage of Japanese words, phrases and idioms. The intricacies of Japanese semantics were fascinating!

There is humor. The American dialog is perfect. The brutalities directed toward the Japanese residents in the US are gut-wrenching. You are there in the internment camps and can experience what life was really like there, on those beds, in those close quarters, lacking food and so horribly discriminated against. Enlistment became a means of escape. How were the Japanese treated after the war? All of this is part of the book.

The narrator of the audiobook was Laurel Lefkow. The American dialogs were spot-on, but the pronunciation of Japanese words could have been improved. The Japanese speaking English took a while to get used to. At times, the melodrama of the words was exaggerated by the narrator’s intonations. This was unfortunate.

My prime complaint of this novel concerns the chain of events chosen by the author. In the attempt to teach us about the chosen historical events, she constructed a story so that these events could be explored. The events could have rolled out in this manner, but they probably would not have. There are way too many coincidences. Even if in Madame Butterfly the American wife agreed to take the child and raise him as her own, in this novel it did not ring true. As it is portrayed in this novel she rushes in and grabs a child that is not her own. Now why would she do that? It does not make sense in this novel. Not at all. This aspect of the novel was a major fault in the story. Very unconvincing.

Still, I learned a lot and definitely recommend the book, either the audio or the written version.

ETA: there are some really good lines too. Taste these:
"Hospitals are no place for sick people to be."
"Truth is shapeless like water."
"I didn't know I was Japanese until Roosevelt told us."
"They (the two bodies) fit together like a soft jigsaw puzzle." :0)