Cover image for Shadow child / Rahna Reiko Rizzuto.
Shadow child / Rahna Reiko Rizzuto.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Grand Central Publishing, 2018.

Physical Description:
341 pages ; 24 cm
"A haunting and suspenseful literary tale set in 1970s New York City and World War II-era Japan, about three strong women, the dangerous ties of family and identity, and the long shadow our histories can cast"-- Provided by publisher.


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For fans of Tayari Jones and Ruth Ozeki, from National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Rizzuto comes a haunting and suspenseful literary tale set in 1970s New York City and World War II-era Japan, about three strong women, the dangerous ties of family and identity, and the long shadow our histories can cast.

Twin sisters Hana and Kei grew up in a tiny Hawaiian town in the 1950s and 1960s, so close they shared the same nickname. Raised in dreamlike isolation by their loving but unstable mother, they were fatherless, mixed-race, and utterly inseparable, devoted to one another. But when their cherished threesome with Mama is broken, and then further shattered by a violent, nearly fatal betrayal that neither young woman can forgive, it seems their bond may be severed forever--until, six years later, Kei arrives on Hana's lonely Manhattan doorstep with a secret that will change everything.

Told in interwoven narratives that glide seamlessly between the gritty streets of New York, the lush and dangerous landscape of Hawaii, and the horrors of the Japanese internment camps and the bombing of Hiroshima, SHADOW CHILD is set against an epic sweep of history. Volcanos, tsunamis, abandonment, racism, and war form the urgent, unforgettable backdrop of this intimate, evocative, and deeply moving story of motherhood, sisterhood, and second chances.

Author Notes

Rahna Reiko Rizzuto is the author of the memoir Hiroshima in the Morning, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle. Her debut novel, Why She Left Us , won an American Book Award. The first woman to graduate from Columbia College with a BA in Astrophysics, she was raised in Hawaii and lives in Brooklyn.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Rizzuto's quasi-thriller turned weighty multigenerational saga follows three women facing debilitating illness, alienation, and extreme isolation against the backdrop of war and a devastating environmental catastrophe. As the novel opens in the early 1970s, 24-year-old half-Japanese, half-white Hana returns to her sparse New York City apartment to find her estranged twin sister, Kei, knocked out cold in the bathtub, apparently the victim of a break-in. Kei falls into a coma and is hospitalized, and as Hana tries to figure out what happened, she visits Kei and tells her stories about their childhood in 1950s and '60s Hawaii, hoping it will help revive her. Of particular import are Hana's recollections of competing for their mother's attention, the time Kei nearly got swept away in a tsunami, and-the book's finale-the terrifying event that drove the sisters apart. While the chapters told from Hana's and Kei's perspectives are mostly gripping, the story line that carries the most heft is a third from the perspective of their mother, Japanese-American Lillie, that takes place before the twins are born and explores anti-Japanese prejudice during World War II, the horrors of Japanese internment camps, and the bombing of Hiroshima (themes also explored in Rizzuto's memoir, Hiroshima in the Morning). Though the book meanders a bit too much, it's bolstered by its convincing historical detail and its satisfying characters. A well-paced page-turner it's ultimately not, but Rizzuto's ruminative portrait of a ravaged family on the precipice of forgiveness leaves a lasting impression. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Dreading her twin sister Keiko's visit from Hawaii, Hanako deliberately delays returning to her Manhattan apartment, but when she does, she finds Kei in the shower, unconscious from a mysterious attack. While Kei lies comatose in the hospital, Hana recalls their inseparable, even interchangeable childhoods until adolescence cleaved them into good Hana and wild-child Kei. Their mother's and stepfather's deaths reunite them-at least in physical distance-but Hana must somehow bring Kei back from the darkness. Interspersed with the sisters' saga is Lillie's tragic story as a Japanese American woman imprisoned in Manzanar during World War II who is deported to Japan before war's end, horrifically losing loved ones in Hiroshima, but ultimately survives to return home to the United States. How the dual narratives are linked won't be surprising, and despite multiple red herrings, readers will probably intuit whodunit sooner rather than later. With such predictability, wading through more than 13 hours of psychological meandering risks devolving into tedium. VERDICT Perhaps Christine Lakin's narration could have been more engaging, her Japanese phrases and -Hawaiian pidgin more consistent, the various characters more succinctly distinguished. That said, Rizzuto's (Hiroshima in the Morning) already uneven text limits opportunities for transformative aural enhancement. ["A haunting examination of identity and family": LJ 3/1/18 starred review of the Grand Central hc.]-Terry Hong, Smithsonian -BookDragon, -Washington, DC © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.