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, a high school art teacher, 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, this novel 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.


"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


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An excerpt from chapter one can be read on the 49th Shelf here.




Leslie Shimotakahara, a young, disenchanted English professor, struggles to revive her childhood love of reading. Returning home to Toronto to rethink her life, she bonds with her father Jack over discussions about the lives, loves and works of the novelists on their shared reading list -- Wharton, Joyce, Woolf and Atwood, to name a few. But when their conversations about literature unearth some heartbreaking, deeply buried family secrets surrounding Jack's own childhood -- growing up Japanese-Canadian in the aftermath of World War II -- Leslie's world is changed forever. Could discovering the truth about her father's past hold the key to her finally being happy in love, life and career?


The Reading List reveals how literature can sometimes help us expose our past, understand our loved ones and point us toward our future.


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