Walbert, Kate. The Gardens of Kyoto. Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press, 2001.
Reason read: in honor of the Japanese Tanabata Festival even though The Gardens of Kyoto have nothing to do with Japan or the Tanabata Festival.
What is a memory when it can be tainted or changed by the emotional upheaval of growing up? By grief? Ellen’s favorite cousin, killed in the final days of World War II, leaves a lasting impression on her young life and ultimately shapes her future world. Randall’s death is profound on multiple levels. He leaves Ellen his diary and a book called The Gardens of Kyoto, his most meaningful possessions. The parallel between the Gardens of Kyoto that fascinated Randall and Ellen’s present-day reality is in the illusion: of what is really there before your eyes. Ellen goes through life constantly questioning Randall’s influences.
There is a subtle resilience to Walbert’s writing; an understated strength and grace to her words.
Lines that lingered in my mind, “You will find that certain words stay with you” (p 38), “Exotic and smoky and entirely out of place across from cornfields” (p 66), and my favorite, “You have been mine since the day you were born” (p 273).
Confessional: I know what it is like to be close to a cousin; to have that special bond, only to lose him to death. Memories become profound and I often find myself sifting through them for all the hidden meanings of life.
Author fact: Walbert also wrote Our Kind (also on my Challenge list).
Book trivia: Gardens of Kyoto is Kate Walbert’s first book.
Nancy said: Nancy includes Gardens of Kyoto as a first novel she is “delighted to have read” (p 88).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the simple chapter called “First Novels” (p 88).