The Earthquake Doll: Revised Edition, by Candace Williams

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Candace Williams for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having been approached by the author with a revised version of her book, I was intrigued to see what I might find and how the reading experience might shape my views on the subject she presents. Miyoko was a young girl when the Emperor declared that Japan had surrendered in the war. What would become of her family and her blessed country? As the story moves ahead seven years, Miyoko is now a teenager and seeking work. Her best option is serving as a nanny on an America military base, where she can make some money and help develop her English. She is not the only Japanese girl to do this, though the culture shock may be a little more than she expected. Hired to work with an American family, Miyoko makes a connection to the children she minds—David and Tina—as well as some of the other nannies, all while her own personal life develops. Promised her hand in marriage, Miyoko seeks to live a less traditional life and one more akin to what the Americans have brought to Japan. Still, she wants to provide the children she watches with a little lesson in Japanese culture as well, presenting them with an earthquake doll, which might be considered a tradition version of the modern ‘bobblehead’. Its body is firmly grounded with a head that bounces, used to detect tremors in the earth. With the onset of American involvement in Korea, the region is again beset by fighting and war, which will surely force Japan to choose sides, thrusting its citizens into a position of being the ally of one group and the foe of another. As Miyoko grows, she experiences many an earthquake, both literal and figurative, pushing her to become her own earthquake doll, sounding the alarm while remaining firmly rooted. Williams presents an interesting piece that is full of symbolism and cultural themes, while still being very easy to read. Recommended to those who enjoy something rich in history and full of imagery.

I was pleasantly surprised to have the author approach me, hoping that I would test the waters with the revised version of her book. I had not read the original, so I cannot draw parallels between the two, but thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience. Miyoko was quite the protagonist, offering insight into the life of a young Japanese girl who has witnessed a significant change in her country since the send of the Second World War. She is tied down to the traditions of her family and culture, but also has come to taste the new and exciting life that American presence in Japan has brought to pass. She struggles with both, but is happy to indulge a little if only to help shape her. Williams’ use of the earthquake doll to represent this new Miyoko was brilliant and the attentive reader will find a great deal of symbolism therein. Other characters serve to complement Miyoko effectively, as well as flavour the narrative effectively. Both Japanese and American influences are strong throughout, helping to create a complexity to the novel that shows the various struggles taking place. The story was well-paced and the chapters short, which proved effectively in this instance. Williams admits to drawing on her own experiences as a child who grew up on a military base in Japan, which only enriches the narrative even more. The addition of numerous Japanese words helps education the reader as they make their way through the piece. Williams has done well with this piece and I hope she can market the story to lure in many fans and new readers, both of whom will likely not be disappointed.

Kudos, Madam Williams, for a great introduction to your work. I will try some more, if only to contrast and compare with some of your other ideas.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: