Monday, August 22, 2011

Plum Wine

About 10 years ago I took a creative writing class at NCSU and my instructor was Angela Davis-Gardner.  At some point during the semester she brought in a box and as she carefully pulled a stack of papers tied together with twine out of it, she excitedly told us that she had finished her book Plum Wine.  After completing the class my mom gave me two of her other novels Felice and Forms of Shelter as a gift, which I read and enjoyed.  But over the passing years I had forgotten about Plum Wine.  When I was in the library last week, they had a section of NC authors and there it was, right in front of me, telling me to read it. So naturally I checked it out and started reading it as soon as I got home.

It is the story of Barbara a young American woman teaching Literature at a women's college in Tokyo, Japan in the 1960s, during the Vietnam War.  She inherits a tansu chest from another teacher and dear friend, Michi, who has recently passed away.  The chest if filled with bottles of homemade plum wine that Michi and her mother made, dating back to 1930.  But the real story begins when she realizes there are letters wrapped around each bottle telling the stories of Michi and her mother and grandmother - telling the stories of their family and their survival of Hiroshima.

It is a beautiful story of love and loss.  And an unusual point of view - because in a way it is the Japanese point of view of WWII and Hiroshima as well as Vietnam, but it is the Japanese point of view told through and American woman in Japan.  So it's very interesting and intricate.  I loved this story and found myself easily lost in it.  And while reading it, I often thought of the class I took with her 10 years ago and how this novel gave me a new perspective of her, even more so than her other novels.  And it really made me want to start writing again...

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