Publication Date: July 2015
Format: Hardcover, 304 pgs
I found this book through my friend and fellow blogger, Wendy of Musings of a Bookish Kitty, and after reading her lovely review I knew I wanted to read it.
Amaterasu Takahashi is the only survivor after the bombing of Nagasaki forty years ago. She and her husband, Kenzo, decided to leave for America for a new life because the past carried too much horrific and painful memories for them, especially Amaterasu. She blamed herself for leading her daughter, Yuko, to her death after telling her she would like to meet up at Urakami Cathedral to talk with her over some matters. Japan was at war then and no one expects the bombing would happen until it was all too late. Amaterasu escaped the bombing but unfortunately Yuko didn't. Her body was never found and while Amaterasu and Kenzo initially held onto the belief that she might be alive, they have soon given up hope and decided that Yuko may have perished after all. Their young grandson, Hideo, wasn't spared too and all these had devastated the couple.
Amaterasu and Kenzo managed to find some peace in America until sickness has taken Kenzo away from Amaterasu. As if things aren't painful enough, Amaterasu opens her door one day to find a scarred man claiming to be her grandson. Amaterasu doesn't believe him, but the man has a collection of old letters which Amaterasu couldn't resist to read; and once again Amaterasu is being brought back to the past and led her into thinking that if she hadn't protect her daughter from a forbidden relationship would she be alive then.
While one can say A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding is a war story, it is also a heart-wrenching story about family, love, secrets and forgiveness. While the reader is concerned if Hideo is Amaterasu's long-lost grandson, at its core this is more of Yuko's story and the reason(s) why Amaterasu has gone through all lengths to protect her. The impact and the aftermath of the war wasn't an easy read and while it doesn't take too much of the story, the sad and horrific event remains in the reader's mind as Yuko's past slowly unveils through bits of her journals as well as Amaterasu's recollections. The reader will also came to understand more about Amaterasu because there is also part of her story too.
This is Jackie Copleton's debut novel and I will be sure to watch out for her next release.