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One Hundred And One Ways by Mako Yoshikawa - Book Review


One Hundred And One Ways
Mako Yoshikawa
Piatkus Books

Fiction-Net Rating 4 Star Rated Book

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Cover Story

If Kiki Takehashi's life is romantically different from that of her reserved Japanese-American mother, it is light-years away from that of her grandmother, whom she knows only through old family stories. Kiki has recently become engaged to Eric, a handsome, successful New York City lawyer but at the same time, she is haunted - quite literally - by the memory of her friend Phillip, killed the previous year in a mountaineering accident.

Kiki has never met her grandmother, Yukiko, for whom she is named. Still, thoroughly American though she is, she feels a secret kinship with her. Kiki is swept up by the story of this strong, proud, passionate woman who, against all odds, in a time and place far different from her own, was sold by her impoverished family, became a famous geisha and found the love that has so far eluded the rest of the Takehashi women.

We Say

It is said that the only way to know who you are, is to know where you come from. Despite the emphatic assertion that you will not grow up to be anything like your parents or other family members, the fact is that we all share aspects of our ancestor's personalities or physical traits whether we like it or not. Mako Yoshikawa's novel, One Hundred And One Ways explores one woman's link to the women who have come before her. While this book explores the common thread of three generations of Japanese women, it is also a novel about relationships and of loss. What makes this book work is Yoshikawa's ability to tell a love story that moves beyond the cultural framework in which it is set.

Mako Yoshikawa weaves a story of lost loves and triumph through the eyes of Kiki Takehashi. Kiki is a Japanese-American who struggles with her relationship with two very different men. Initially, she may be seen as a young woman who is searching for her place but upon closer examination, we find a young woman who is actually quite aware of her capacity to love deeply. What causes Kiki's confusion is the heartbreaking and devastating loss of her friend, Phillip. In many ways, One Hundred And One Ways is about the healing process that must occur when a loved one is lost.

At times, I felt the story concentrated on Kiki's sexual relationships a little too much. While the information is pertinent, at times I felt it was overdone. Kiki's observations that men viewed her as a woman who possessed mysterious knowledge on how to please a man sexually is a central theme. Her own sexuality is a subject she scrutinises closely throughout the book. She explores her own relationships through the examination of her mother and grandmother's relationships. While her grandmother was a Geisha and her mother married a Japanese man only to emigrate to the United States, Kiki finds that she shares some common threads with these women when it comes to love.

Overall, I was impressed with Mako Yoshikawa's first novel. While some may argue that the frankness and honesty of the novel is its strength, I find that to be a direct contradiction to the essence of Kiki's character. Kiki is described as a woman who is lost in her own world. Kiki is misunderstood by others for a variety of reasons. While she is American in every way, her appearance to many may seem exotic or unusual. I sometimes felt that Kiki's frank discussion of her sexuality, while enlightening, detracted from my sense of her character. I felt that this was the novel's only weakness. Through her stories and observations, I felt I received a much more complete picture of Kiki's character. Kiki finds that her mother and her grandmother's stories hold meaning and understanding, even if they are from another time. If one looks beyond the references to the Japanese culture, it is easy to find a novel that is well written and often heartbreaking. I would not rate this a spectacular book but I did like it.

If you are looking for an intelligently written love story then One Hundred and One Ways will fit the bill.

Review by: Yumi Nagasaki-Taylor

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