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colorado review 170 hurt Ida, but she was trapped by her dependence on the land he owned, as well as by love. After John’s death, Ida grieved deeply for the husband with whom she had not been intimate for decades . Josephine Lamb, too, depended on John and his land to achieve her own ends, even at the cost of surrendering much of her independence. But when he died, John left Josephine, not Ida, in control of his properties. John, of course, benefited most by having, in effect, two wives, one who tended his ranch home and one with whom he shared the hard work, and love, of ranching. In his effort to penetrate his subjects’ lives and personalities, Thiem sometimes uses literary devices that may set many biographers ’ and historians’ teeth grinding. In chapter 8, for example, he has a long, imagined conversation with Lamb about how the Livermore area had changed since her lifetime. This technique of filling historical gaps with nonfactual information inferred or invented from what is known sheds only limited light on the subjects’ lives. Fortunately, these forays into fictionalizing the Elliotts and Lamb are few and brief. They are also unnecessary since the factual record of these people is compelling enough. Unending Nora, by Julie Shigekuni Red Hen Press, 2008 reviewed by Lisa Montanarelli Julie Shigekuni is among a small cadre of writers, including Karen Tei Yamashita, Julie Otsuka, and David Mura, who have explored the effects of the Japanese-American internment on survivors’ children. Unending Nora, her third novel, penned in visionary prose, takes place in the San Fernando Valley during the heat wave of 1995. The chapters rotate between four characters ’ points of view. Nora, Elinore, Melissa, and Caroline are thirty-year-old Sansei—third-generation Japanese Americans. Their parents, as children, were among roughly 110,000 Japanese Americans whom the U.S. government forced into “War Relocation Camps” after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The protagonists’ parents have avoided speaking about the internment , and this culture of silence has enveloped other touchy topics. Elinore’s mother, for instance, hoards crucial information “like a cache of food to be used in an emergency. Through 171 Book Notes an unspoken imperative, she’d instructed her daughter not to examine what had been left out, but to concentrate instead on what was pleasing.” Consequently, the novel is so full of things left unsaid that it would be hard to enumerate all the elisions. Time is out of joint in this story of repressed trauma, lost history , and intergenerational strife. Rather than writing the novel chronologically, Shigekuni staggers the chapters in time: before Nora kills herself, for instance, we learn that she is missing in a chapter from Caroline’s point of view. Twenty pages later—in Nora’s last point-of-view chapter—we are privy to her thoughts as she downs a bottle of pain pills without leaving a suicide note. Through such temporal displacements and multiple points of view, Shigekuni distributes knowledge among different characters and the reader at an uneven pace, so that some are in the know while others remain ignorant or in denial. Halfway through the novel, we learn that Nora has taken her own life, but she remains missing to her friends and family until the end. Even then, when her bones are found with no trace of foul play, some would rather overlook the evidence of suicide and scapegoat the “dark skinned stranger” with whom Nora had her first sexual encounter. Nora’s absence asserts itself more forcefully than she herself did in life. While she is alive and miserable, those closest to her barely take note of her absence. Returning from a family vacation , her parents pull out of a gas station and drive for miles before noticing Nora isn’t in the car. But when she truly goes missing, others feel bereft and responsible. Her disappearance also summons memories of another absence: the silence surrounding the internment. Before Nora vanishes, the characters speak of it rarely and largely metaphorically. Afterward it rises to the surface like a corpse from the bottom of a lake. Drifting into her anaesthetized death, Nora has an epiphany about the internment...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2325-730X
Print ISSN
1046-3348
Pages
pp. 170-173
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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