I had a cousin, Randall, killed on Iwo Jima. Have I told you?
So begins Kate Walbert's beautiful and heartbreaking novel about a young woman, Ellen, coming of age in the long shadow of World War II. Forty years later she relates the events of this period, beginning with the death of her favorite cousin, Randall, with whom she shared Easter Sundays, childhood secrets, and, perhaps, the first taste of love. When he dies on Iwo Jima, she turns to the legacy he left her: his diary and a book called The Gardens of Kyoto. Each one subtly influences her perception of her place in the world, the nature of her memories.
Moving back and forth through time and place, Kate Walbert recreates a world touched by the shadows of war and a society in which women fit their desires into prescribed roles. Unfolding in lyrical, seductive prose, The Gardens of Kyoto becomes a mesmerizing exploration of the interplay of love and loss.
Amy Bloom author of A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You Kate Walbert's fine, delicate prose captures voices that we don't hear much anymore, and she guides us from past to present, and from death to life, with affectionate detail and deep understanding. The Gardens of Kyoto is a ghost story, a mystery, a love story, and an intentionally modest chronicle of the middle part of this past century.