Selected Excerpts from the Novel
“Kenji didn’t approve of that either…the way she’d slip up to the tiled rooftop with her sunglasses and her book and spend and afternoon there on the embankment, Honjo-Ku’s backyard industries and workshops grinding out their metallic rhythms below her, and above her the fume-screened Tokyo sky.
She always brought the same book: the D.H. Lawrence Andrew had given her after their fourth lesson together. Though she’d read it so many times now—a hundred? A thousand?– that she didn’t need to open it. The words were engraved on her mind as clearly as her daughter’s perfect face: She was old, millions of years old, she felt. And at last, she could bear the burden of herself no more. She was to be had for the taking. To be had for the taking….
This is how I see you, Andrew had said. It just seemed so clear, when I reread it last night. And while she had been shocked by both the gift and by the comment—the book was mythical in its perversity, and it should have been so obvious what it meant—he had seemed so tender and intent, and so understanding of her dilemma that it had actually brought her to tears, right there. Right in front of him. Which, in turn, had brought her into his arms.”
“She dressed and carried herself with an erect elegance… that seemed fully at odds with normal beauty standards here. Japanese beauty—at least, so far as Billy had surmised—involved wrapping women up like spider victims in layers and layers of silk, and then having them pretend to be more or less invisible. Hana Kobayashi, by contrast, was anything but invisible.”
“Manchuria was nothing like the government posters and pamphlets…Yoshi had seen, with their bucolic scenes of lush fields and flush-cheeked Japanese workers. Instead, the village that had greeted her yesterday had seemed the dirt-brushed skeleton of some utterly alien community. Though well-constructed, Shin Nagano’s round, rough town buildings had struck Yoshi as strangely clunky against the smooth Mongolian plains. Beyond them in the yellowing fields, skinny cows and swaybacked horses mingled, looking equally out-of-place amid disgusted-looking camels.
It was about as different from bustling, international Harbin as one place could be from another.
‘It’s very…simple,’ she said finally.
He lifted a brow. ‘Simple?’
‘In a good way, of course,’ she added quickly. ‘Harbin was just so busy.’
He nodded sagely. ‘Great city though, isn’t it? Did you get to go to the zoo?’
She shook her head. ‘We just spent the night and then came straight here. My father said he had work to do.’
‘He’s always working, your dad,’ the boy said admiringly. ‘He’s the whole reason this village exists, you know.’
‘I know.’ Yoshi felt another flush, this time one of pride. ‘He’s always been like that.’”
“And yet twenty minutes later, when he was standing at the plane’s entrance and staring out over what had once been the serene green vista of the Tokyo Golf Club (another institution his father had built) Billy found that he was, in fact, very affected. That, in fact, he was stunned. For what he saw was not the burgeoning, erratic skyline of his memory…but a sweeping and charcoal-black plain, one studded with standing buildings, empty but for rubble piles and makeshift shanties.
“Good Lord,” he murmured, too horrified to even take the shot he’d set his new Contax up for. “Good God,” he whispered.
It was as if they had landed on the moon.
“Sir,” said Hana Cortlandt. “Is there something else I can help you with? Did you leave something in the cabin?”
She looked meaningfully over his shoulder, and for one paralyzed moment Billy thought maternal affection had abruptly heated up and she was now propositioning him. Then he realized that there were eight other officers right behind them, and she was simply asking him to get a move on.
“No,” he’d said, picking up his duffle. “It’s all here.”
“…in workplace and home alike, everyone seemed in a mad race to build build build… To build new kitchens and garages, roads and cards and business connections until the old, war-torn city was no longer visible—any more than were the broken people who had scraped out their lives there in the days following the Surrender. That Japan—defeated Japan—was now part of an unspeakable past; one its inhabitants saw in nearly as mythical terms as the Emperor’s once-presumed “divinity.”
‘Anyway,’ Billy was saying. He offered her his elbow. ‘Shall we take the tour?’
Yoshi linked her arm through his. ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Let’s.’
They started to the left of Baraku, with an image called Homecoming. It was a large photograph of a young woman and a much older man, leaning on a cane. The woman knelt just before a pile of debris, hands outstretched as though she were about to plunge them in, elbow-deep. Given the context, Yoshi guessed she and her father were trying to salvage something usable or undestroyed from the rubble of their house. But from the way Billy had framed her—faintly angled, the focus less on her connection with the man than with the garbage—it looked as though she were kneeling at some demolished and trash-strewn alter, praying for help…”