After the Bloom by Leslie ShimotakaharaAfter the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara

After the Bloom

byLeslie Shimotakahara

Paperback | April 15, 2017

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A daughter's search for her mother reveals her family's past in a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War.

Lily Takemitsu goes missing from her home in Toronto one luminous summer morning in the mid-1980s. Her daughter, Rita, knows her mother has a history of dissociation and memory problems, which have led her to wander off before. But never has she stayed away so long. Unconvinced the police are taking the case seriously, Rita begins to carry out her own investigation. In the course of searching for her mom, she is forced to confront a labyrinth of secrets surrounding the family's internment at a camp in the California desert during the Second World War, their postwar immigration to Toronto, and the father she has never known.

Epic in scope, intimate in style, After the Bloom blurs between the present and the ever-present past, beautifully depicting one family's struggle to face the darker side of its history and find some form of redemption.
Leslie Shimotakahara's memoir, The Reading List, was the winner of the Canada-Japan Literary Prize in 2012. Her fiction has been short-listed for the K.M. Hunter Artist Award. She holds a Ph.D. in English from Brown University. After the Bloom is her debut novel. Leslie lives in Toronto.
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Title:After the BloomFormat:PaperbackDimensions:324 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 1 inPublished:April 15, 2017Publisher:DundurnLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1459737431

ISBN - 13:9781459737433

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from History is always relevant. Leslie Shimotakahara has written a book that stirs history, family and current affairs related to the internment of Japanese Canadians and Americans during World War II into a compelling story of loss and recovery. Her characters struggle with the common ailments of many families against the unique backdrop of the internment. While anxiety and sadness persist, they are tempered with understanding and hope. This novel, with its thorough research bringing much-needed light to a dark time in our recent history, is particularly relevant to today's world in which fear of the other is again contaminating our social and political relationships. Disclaimer: Leslie's parents are long-time friends and I have known her since childhood, hers not mine.
Date published: 2017-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from reflection of my own family The parent-child struggle at the centre of this novel was easy for me to relate to. I learned a lot by reading this novel
Date published: 2017-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from i love it Beautifully written. Meticulously researched. A riveting read
Date published: 2017-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating A fascinating, well written novel. Ever since reading Joy Kogawa's Obasan, I've been interested in learning more about the Japanese internment. After the Bloom fleshed out my understanding of this terrible, turbulent period in history and held my attention until the very end.
Date published: 2017-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engrossing Suspenseful First Novel A friend recommended this book after her book club read it. I have Japanese American relatives but knew little about their internment. I found Leslie Shimotakahara's novel fascinating, historically informative and suspenseful. Rita's indecisiveness about finding Lilly, her missing Japanese American mother was mirrored in the initial slower pace of the book. The story quickly picked up with flashback chapters of Lilly as a young woman interned at Matanza, a fictitious internment camp in California. The author has skillfully created Lilly's experience surviving harsh, humiliating events and relocating post World War 2 in Toronto, Canada where she endured a disappointing marriage founded on secrets. This novel is beautifully written and well researched.
Date published: 2017-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Calling this book "epic" is not an exaggeration Shimotakahara writes with refined sensitivity about the fragility of human nature, and how such vulnerability can transform into strength in the name of love. Her characters are flawed with human weaknesses. They come across as real: they feel, they think and they act. They draw the readers into their worlds, sharing their anguish and pains. Both the downtown Toronto and the desert camp landscape are depicted vividly, filtered by Shimotakahara’s keen observation, vivid imagination and strong narrative. The fictional name of Matanzas camp bears close resemblance to the actual Manzanar camp, where a riot took place, as in the novel. Credit must be given to her artful blend of research material and personal experience.
Date published: 2017-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Calling it "epic" is not an exaggeration Shimotakahara writes with refined sensitivity about the fragility of human nature, and how such vulnerability can transform into strength in the name of love. Her characters are flawed with human weaknesses. They come across as real: they feel, they think and they act. They draw the readers into their worlds, sharing their anguish and pains Both the downtown Toronto and the desert camp landscape are depicted vividly, filtered by Shimotakahara’s keen observation, vivid imagination and strong narrative. The fictional name of Matanzas camp bears close resemblance to the actual Manzanar camp, where a riot took place, as in the novel. Credit must be given to her artful blend of research material and personal experience.
Date published: 2017-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent and indulgent read The story line is right up my alley: social history coupled with real, relatable characters. Particularly the main female character. The romance between Rita and Mark is so real and just right. It doesn't overtake the central storyline but is such a delicious diversion. I loved the realism in their relationship and Rita's skepticism. This indulgent piece of fiction had my eyes glued to the page, refusing to move until I'd unraveled the mysteries of the family's history, traveled through the streets of Toronto c. 1983 and further back into North America's criminal treatment of its citizens of Japanese heritage. This novel wraps modern day relationships with a critical, but relatively unknown part of our history that I felt guilty for not knowing more of. A wonderful new voice on the scene of Canadian literature, after the Bloom will not disappoint.
Date published: 2017-05-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A fascinating and compelling read It isn't often that a book draws me in to such a great degree, but from the moment I picked up Shimotakahara's After the Bloom, I was thoroughly absorbed in it, both in the compelling and tragic account of the internment camp, and the modern-day story dealing with Lily's disappearance. The author seamlessly moves between the two time periods, showing her mastery of language with her unique ability to paint scenes and detail emotions so clearly. The descriptions of the time in the internment camp are vivid and haunting - required reading for all of us who have never been told about this sad and important part of our history. Shimotakahara deftly recounts the past, and ties it together to the present in a wonderful, descriptive and very moving book, making me want to learn more, both about the history itself and the characters she has created. Shimotakahara is one to watch, for sure.
Date published: 2017-05-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from After the Bloom is a story about family, history, and love. After the Bloom is a story about family, history, and love. Readers follow the main character, Rita, as she discovers her parents' past in an interment camp in California. Rita has always been ignorant of her mother's time at the camp. She never pushed or sought out more information. So, when her mother goes missing she's forced to realize that the way her mother acts is a result of what happened to her in the past. The pace of the first 100 pages is incredible slow. I had a really hard time investing in the characters and the story. There were even a few times I almost fell asleep. However, once the story and characters are grounded, the pace evens out and I found myself truly invested in the outcome of these characters. The narrative oscillates between the past and the present and between Rita and her mother’s perspective. The past chapters inform the reader about the questions being asked in the present chapters. So, for most of the novel the reader is privy to more information than the main character. I thoroughly enjoyed this writing decision because it allows readers to make connections on their own without the author having to spell it out plainly. One of the aspects of this book I did not enjoy was the author's choice of creating a fictionalized camp based on a real one. Shimotakahara even goes so far as just changing a few letters in the name of the real camp to create the fictionalized version of it. I, personally, feel like the story would have been more impactful had the author chosen to base her fictional story in the actual camp. Overall, After the Bloom is about an event not often talked about, but should be widely known. It provides an interesting look at how the interment camps greatly affected the people at the time as well as their lives after being released.
Date published: 2017-04-16

Read from the Book

OneTheir house had always been a wreck. The difference was that back then Rita assumed all houses were like that. Paint on the porch peeling, like old nail polish. Full of boarders, or "guests, " as Lily liked to call them; everyone lined up in the cramped hall to use the bathroom at night. The floors of some rooms were so uneven that if Rita closed her eyes, everything seemed to spin gently, the feeling of drunkenness, she'd realize years later.Cracks in the bricks up one side had gotten worse. Now the whole house looked tilted, about to sink.It was a bright, hot morning in July. Under normal circumstances, she'd be out for a jog. Instead she was here, squinting up at her childhood home and lingering on the pavement, as if someone had stood her up. Through the yellowed curtains of the house across the street, an old lady peeked out, probably wondering what on earth Rita was doing here, for the second morning in a row, no less. Maybe Rita looked as though she were on a mission to scope the neighbourhood, one of those rich Asians in the slum landlord business.A little girl ran by, her bright green T-shirt appearing to pulsate with the most amazing greenness, and it seemed impossible that normal life was continuing on - kids were out enjoying the nice weather.For a blissful moment, Rita felt like she could press the rewind button and slip back, so easily, into thinking that everything was going to be just fine. Of course it was. Lily had antsy feet. And a whimsical heart. She'd wandered off before and had always come back. It was the trademark of women of her generation: despite their veneer of stoicism, deep down anger simmered. They were tired of doing everything for everyone, sick of life as doormats. So from time to time, they blew off steam, hit the road. All mothers did this - or felt like doing this - didn't they? Rita was a mom and she'd felt that way before, as though she were destined to live like the little red hen. It was normal to go on strike, wasn't it?She closed her eyes and let the darkness take over, not the comforting darkness of sleep, but a deeper, more frightening blackness. The pep talk she'd just been giving herself lost all conviction, sounded as hollow as it was. While it was true that Lily had traipsed off before, she'd always been found within a few hours.Someone had left a pile of old clothes on the curb. A faded mauve shirt with a crushed-in collar. Baby-doll pumps in dark cherry leather, the round toes scuffed and flattened, like they'd been stepped on. Lily had once worn shoes like that and carried a matching handbag.A wheezing sound gathered force from somewhere, and it took Rita a moment to realize that it was her own breath - the air shortening, dying in hot bursts in her throat - and all she could think was that maybe it was already too late. A vision swept over her: a small, pallid face touched by a bluish tint, generic and expressionless, the way dead people appeared on TV. She squeezed her eyes tighter and refused to believe that face could be her mother's.Three days ago, Lily had gone missing. "Missing people with a history of memory problems often go back to the places they used to live, " the police officer had said, handing over a FAQ sheet for family members. It seemed this sort of thing happened more often than you'd guess. The cop - a woman, wearing just a trace of nude lipstick - tried to be encouraging, but not overly so. She'd been through the drill before.Bloor-Lansdowne. Not the poshest part of Toronto, that was for sure. The houses were crammed so close together that they appeared to be falling into each other at uneven heights. Translucent shower curtains turned front porches into makeshift sunrooms, every second house festooned with Christmas lights that never came down. Very little about the neighbourhood had changed since Rita's childhood (beyond the opening of a new strip club). Even the humid air, mixed with the humidity of her own palpitating body, seemed too familiar, oppressive.What was she supposed to be doing? It didn't seem likely that her mother would miraculously stroll by. Yesterday Rita had knocked on the door of the old house. An old tawny-skinned guy had answered. "No, " he'd said flatly, when she showed him Lily's photo. He kept saying no in response to all her questions; perhaps he didn't understand English.Over his shoulder, she could see someone shuffling in the shadows. Peering in, she half expected Grandpa or Aunt Haruko to come into focus, as though for all these years their ghosts had remained right here, keeping the home fires burning. But Aunt Haruko would have never let that grime build up on the windows. Now the place was inhabited by a hodgepodge of sad souls from far-flung, war-torn countries, the mysterious odours of all their foods clashing, blending together in an oily fug.Unclean.Yet that was what people had once said about her own family. Rita had never managed to forget the peculiar, withering sensation of being looked at that way. And now, a couple decades later, here she was on the other side of that pitying, judgmental gaze.Up and down the block and for four blocks in all directions, she'd plastered her bright yellow sheets on phone poles, telephone booths, mailboxes. MISSING PERSON across the top. The photo had been taken on Lily's honeymoon last year. Although only the head portion had been cropped, Rita couldn't help but see the larger image: smiling vivaciously, her mother was perched on the edge of a chaise longue, white foam waves crashing down behind her, pina colada in hand, the tiny pink umbrella as bright as her lipstick. Sixty, she could easily pass for ten years younger. Her dyed black hair fell in loose, permed curls, remarkably similar to the way Rita remembered it as a child.

Editorial Reviews

Shimotakahara writes with refined sensitivity about the fragility of human nature, and how such vulnerability can transform into strength in the name of love. - Ottawa Review of Books