Most books written about World War II take place in Europe, focusing on the persecution of Jews and others deemed inferior by the Nazis, or feature those left behind during the war. Garden of Stones is about the lesser known evil that took place during the war — the placement of Japanese Americans in prison camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
When Lucy Takeda is suspected of killing a former Manzanar Camp guard 30 years after the war, her daughter Patty is convinced her mother is innocent. Except for the fact that the witness who identified her mother has one detail spot on – the scars on Lucy’s face from an oil fire in her youth are hard to miss. The Lucy that Patty knows is quite different from the beautiful, vivacious teenager who arrived at the California camp, and while Patty stays with her mother during the weeks leading up to her wedding, she starts to unravel the truth about her mother.
Patty does some digging and learns more about Lucy’s childhood, something she never talks about. Lucy’s story is told through flashbacks — her father’s death, the rounding up of Japanese Americans and their imprisonment at Manzanar, her mother Miyako’s manic-depression, her romance with a boy in the camp, Miyako’s relationship with her boss at a factory in the camp. Patty finds a box with mementos from that time in Lucy’s life, and Lucy opens up to her daughter, including the years leading up to Patty’s birth.
The difference in Lucy as an adult is quite jarring, and the story of her time in the camp is upsetting, yet all too real. The sacrifices Miyako makes for her daughter, and in turn Lucy for hers, show how a mother’s love really does trump all, even if their decisions are surprising at the time. It could seem surprising that Patty would grow up knowing nothing of her mother’s life before she was born, but knowing all that Lucy has gone through explains this lack of knowledge.
The murder at the beginning of the novel is overshadowed by Miyako and Lucy’s story, which are really the heart of the story. But the resolution of the murder, as well as other aspects of the story, are very well done and will keep readers on their toes.