After the Bloom – Leslie Shimotakahara


3 star

Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Dundurn

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. 

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.

*I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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