Loveless marriages, back-breaking jobs, constant pregnancies and poverty were often the lot of these brides. Their children added to their heartbreak by Americanizing their names, refusing to speak Japanese, and rejecting the traditions of their ancestors. Still, the mail order brides struggled for decades to gain a toe-hold in a foreign country that never welcomed them and was intolerant of their alien ways.
Otsuka’s use of a first person-plural narrator is very affecting-- the narrative is a stream of anecdotes told by the brides about themselves that form the bigger picture of the novel, the embodiment of “our” story. The book is sectioned into eight parts, beginning with the brides’ painful leave-taking of their mothers and homes and ending decades later with their removal to internment camps after Pearl Harbor. With a minimum of carefully selected words Otsuka brings to life a profoundly-moving but little-known episode in American history; at a compact 129 pages it’s a book that can be savored in one sitting, and it’s a perfectly delicious read.