1. Father-son relationships are a crucial theme in the novel. Talk about some of these relationships and how they are shaped by culture and time. For example, how is the relationship between Henry and his father different from that between Henry and Marty. What accounts for the differences? We thought that father-son relationships everywhere are hard at times. Henry's relationship with his father was encumbered because his father wouldn't let him speak Cantonese at home and Henry couldn't explain things to his father so he could understand. Both fathers (Henry and Mr. Lee) kept things from their sons which made it harder for the sons to understand the fathers. We discussed various relationships in our own families where fathers and sons had trouble relating to each other.
We talked about the struggles our own ancestors had when they immigrated to America. My sister and I have Irish ancestors and we go to a Church that was founded by Irish immigrants. At the time, noone would sell land to the Irish so they could build a Church--much like the folks who would not sell gasoline to the Japanese in the story), so the German immigrants who lived in our town bought the land, then sold it to the Irish. Our ancestors got into many scrapes due to the fact that they were Irish and they were Roman Catholic.
14. Do you think Ethel might have known what was happening with Henry's letters? We were rather intrigued by this question and didn't know how to answer it. We couldn't decide whether we thought she knew or not. Ethel loved Henry. She eventually married him. How could she have kept it from him if she had known about the letters. I don't think she could have. We decided we might have to ask Jamie Ford the answer.
SPOILER ALERT!!!15. The novel ends with Henry and Keiko meeting again after more than 40 years. Jump ahead a year and imagine what has happened to them in that time. Is there any evidence in the novel for this outcome? We are all romanticists, so of course we said "they lived happily ever after." We really think they would have because both their spouses died and they had every right to be together. They obviously loved each other all those years. Their love was so sweet, it couldn't have ended any other way.
We also spent some time talking about whether it was right for the government to move all those people and keep them locked away. It doesn't feel right to punish everyone for something their countrymen did, but what would we do today? We have much tighter security after 911 and some people are questioned just because of their nationality. It still doesn't feel right to me.
For November, we are each reading a book with a Christmas theme. I am reading The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn. Betty is reading a Debbie Macomber book with a Christmas theme, and Mary is reading a Christmas book with two stories in it. Our next meeting will be December 1st since the last Wednesday in November is the day before Thanksgiving and we will all be busy preparing for the feast!
Come back in early December and check out our Christmas booktalk.