Review: GARDEN OF STONES by Sophie Littlefield (releasing at the end of Feb., 2013)

Another recent Net Galley find for me was “Garden of Stones” by Sophie Littlefield. This story starts with a murder in modern-day Los Angeles with an unlikely suspect (an elderly and humble Japanese American women) and then travels to the past.

Fourteen-year-old Lucy Takeda is taken with her mother to the Manzanar internment camp at the outbreak of WWII. Lucy has recently lost her father and has the huge adjustment of going from being a confident and pampered child of privilege to a camp resident. Lucy’s beautiful mother, whose emotions and moods are both vulnerable and unstable, suffers from the harshness of camp life and the unwanted attentions of the male camp guards. Lucy is determined to adapt and make the best of their situation and to continue her studies. She befriends Jesse, another young internee, and finds her feelings growing for him. Then tragedy strikes and Lucy must learn to cope and to survive in the ever-changing and harsh world.

I enjoyed reading this novel, though there were several story lines in it (which all eventually come together). The present day focus is on the murder and the suspicion of Lucy as the murderer. Her daughter Patty is determined to prove her mother’s innocence, but first she must come to learn about and discover her mother’s true self and her past. Then we have the camp storyline, with Jesse’s story and Lucy’s mother’s story and a murder woven in. Next there is the “after camp” storyline of Lucy making a way for herself as a chambermaid in a motel. Eventually all the storylines converge in the present and all the questions are answered.

I’ve read several stories of internment camps, most of them as first person memoirs and often written for YA readers. Ms. Littlefield has done her research here as many of the harsh aspects of the camps are included. To me, the story would have stood by itself with just the storyline of the camp, and Lucy’s journey from being a protected child, to a camp refugee, to remaking herself after the war. I really didn’t need the murders or mysteries included, though I’m sure many readers will enjoy them. It was enough for me to read of the resiliency of the people who lived through these times.

Due to themes of abuse I wouldn’t say this is one for the kids, but I think adults will enjoy it. I just have to say, too – I love, love, love the cover!

Thanks to Net Galley and Harlequin for my copy .

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