After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara is a book that has a lot of depth to it, especially in regards to the Japanese experience within internment camps during Word War II. The effects of this terrible and atrocious period of history exhibits itself in many ways, all of which are deeply psychological and wholeheartedly intimate.
Lily, who’s the protagonist’s missing mother, suffers from memory loss, at least on the surface. What she really suffers from is the inability to forget a traumatizing experience; an experience that is still very much alive with her today to the point that she struggles with her realities. This is an extremely thought-provoking element, not only of Lily’s character, but one that veils the entire story itself. An example: as Rita recalls her childhood with anecdotes of what it was like to grow up with Lily, we learn that to protect their children from persecution, Rita’s parents never instilled the roots of Japanese culture or heritage into their children, or kept it at the barest minimum at best. They didn’t even allow their kids to learn the Japanese language.
During World War II, the Japanese community were dehumanized in ways that I can’t even begin to fathom. In the years following the demise of the camps, these people were still treated horridly and were shown disgusting prejudices for illustrating any ties to their Japanese roots. So, the exhibition of Rita’s non-existent cultural education comes as no surprise. It feels very realistic and candid as she ponders all of the reasons why her parents were so silent about these matters.
One of the reasons that Rita begins her own investigation is because the white police officer that is called over in the wake of Lily’s disappearance, treats her and her step-father like they’re morons who are simply overreacting. His attitude and method of questioning makes it apparent that he doesn’t take any serious stock of the disappearance as Lily is nothing more than an insane and senile old woman. This treatment by the officer is provocative and ambiguous in nature for a couple of reasons. One of them is that it can be seen as an exposition of internment victims’ fear of the white American post-WWII. The second is a glimpse of how this discomposure is imparted on to the children of these victims without them realizing it.
There is a lot of insight that’s offered in After the Bloom . The darkest parts of modern history are shared via voices who know it and understand it best. However, the overall writing element makes this book awfully difficult to get through. The introduction of new characters are very vague and they aren’t really given any sort of identifying markers until later, where it’s provided sporadically via one-to-two sentences, or in anecdotes after the fact. The author uses metaphors and intricately intellectual descriptives to evoke emotions, or to describe setting and atmosphere, but abrupt changes of the environment creates an awkward, jarring effect. Other times, something in the present will be the focus of discussion, but then suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of another childhood recollection without warning. There is no fluidity to the storytelling.
The book is also disappointingly boring. It’s so damn slow to pick and get going, and the pacing stays rather stale and monotonous the entire time. I found it excruciatingly challenging to connect with any of the characters, including Rita, due to this sluggish motion. My mind kept wandering off into La-La-Land, which made me feel wholly sad as the novel centred on a topic that I’m so completely fascinated with.
Overall, I do not recommend After the Bloom , unless you don’t have any problems or issues with dreary and lethargic storytelling.
2 flowers outta 5!
*This is an #OwnVoices Japanese novel about the internment camp experience!
**The title will be released 15-Apr-2017!