Plot: 12-year-old Sumiko lives with her uncle’s family on his flower farm in California. Life isn’t easy. Her parents died in a car crash and as the only Japanese girl at school, she has no friends. But she’s happy and takes pride in her work with the flowers. Everything changes after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Her uncle and grandfather are taken away and the rest of the family is sent to a relocation center on a Mohave reservation. Conditions are hard and tensions are high between the “Nikkei” and the Indians on the reserve. But in the midst of it all, Sumiko befriends a Mohave boy whose life is perhaps even worse than hers.
This is a very quick read; I read it in less than a day. And enjoyed it. I shed a tear a couple of times towards the end. Kadohata knows her subject well and it shows in her writing. Though this is fiction, Sumiko’s experiences are realistic and true to the experiences of Japanese-Americans if not in detail, then in feeling. If the writing is simple, it is good and clearly expresses Sumiko’s feelings: the hurt, the anger, the shame and the boredom. I felt as though her friendship with Frank, and the relationship with the Mohave, could have been explored more however. The way the novel ends and where Kadohata chooses to end it suggests that this friendship was the main element of the story but in truth they only meet briefly about 6 times. But that’s a little enough complaint I suppose.