AFTER THE BLOOM

Leslie Shimotakahara

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,

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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.

Epic in scope, intimate in style, After the Bloom blurs between the present and the ever-present past, beautifully depicting one family’s struggle to face the darker side of its history and find some form of redemption.

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  • Dundurn Books
  • Paperback
  • April 2017
  • 324 Pages
  • 9781459737433

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$21.99

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About Leslie Shimotakahara

Leslie Shimotakahara’s memoir, The Reading List, was the winner of the Canada-Japan Literary Prize in 2012. Her fiction has been short-listed for the K.M. Hunter Artist Award. She holds a Ph.D. in English from Brown University. After the Bloom is her debut novel. Leslie lives in Toronto.

Author Website

Praise

“A deep and beautiful story … Poetically told and laced with Japanese folklore, the novel takes cues from a more mythical narrative, parables abounding in its fiction but always with a point.”National Post

“[A] compelling work of historical fiction that scrutinizes how the experience and conditions of internment had a shattering cultural effect on Japanese Americans. Shimotakahara’s writing is personal and entrancing, unflinchingly shining a light on this difficult part of history.”Booklist, starred review

“A compelling tale of hearts and minds caught in the tumult of history, memory and love, across generations. A sweeping page-turner.”Kerri Sakamoto, author of One Hundred Million Hearts

Discussion Questions

1. At the center of After the Bloom is a turbulent mother-daughter relationship. One of the things that makes Rita and Lily’s relationship so strained is Lily’s refusal or inability to talk about the past. Have you ever experienced a similar dynamic in your own family?

2. Rita’s relationship with her own daughter, Kristen, is very different than her relationship with Lily. Yet some elements—such as Rita’s struggle to talk openly about the internment with her daughter—continue on. Looking at these two mother-daughter relationships, what has changed and what has stayed the same?

3. Which characters did you sympathize with most easily? Which characters did you find it difficult to like?

4. Certain characters evolve considerably in the course of the novel. How do they change? What are the factors that propel them to change?

5. The Japanese internment and its aftermath are at the core of this novel. Have you ever known anyone affected by the internment? Did they ever share memories with you?

6. What were your impressions of the internment camp?

7. Intergenerational tensions are one factor that lead to the outbreak of violence at camp. Discuss what causes these tensions and how they play out.

8. The fight to achieve redress (compensation and an apology from the government for the internment) is a theme running through the novel. What do you know about the Redress Movement? Was redress achieved in the end?

9. Kaz and the doctor are very different types of men. What draws Lily romantically to each man?

10. One obstacle that Rita deals with is her sense of failure regarding her short-lived career as an artist. But by the end of the novel, we get the sense that her artistic passion has been reawakened and she might, in some way, try to reintegrate art into her life, while continuing her career as a teacher. Have you ever had a similar experience of turning away from something that was important to you during your youth?

11. The final part of the novel turns into a road trip, as Rita, Kristen and Mark drive through the desert on a quest to find Lily. This trip is also a journey of self-discovery, as the three characters in the car discuss many things. What do they reveal and discover about themselves? Have you ever had a comparable experience on a road trip?

12. Every family has its secrets. In Rita’s family, the secrets surrounding her father are particularly dark. Who is Rita’s father, in the end? Did you see this revelation coming?

13. Although Rita and Mark are clearly attracted to each other, their relationship gets off to a bumpy start. What makes it so difficult for them to connect, initially? Do you predict that they’ll stay together in the long term?

14. Would you have liked to see the novel end differently? If so, how would you have written the ending?