A recent widow Anna, who lives in Memphis, is persuaded by her eighty-year-old grandmother Goldie Rosenthal to drive her cross country to San Francisco in Goldie's Silver Cloud Rolls Royce. When Anna insists on flying instead, her grandmother insists that Anna take the car on the long journey, where Anna is to sell it before flying back to the East Coast. Her grandmother would be boarding a flight from San Francisco to Dubai for another in her long list of international trips.
The reason for the road trip, says Goldie, is to return a book of valuable Japanese woodblock prints to their rightful owner, Mayumi Nakamura, a Japanese girl who gave them to Goldie for safe keeping in the 1940s during the time of the Japanese-American internment, when Goldie was living in San Francisco. Goldie did not seem to have a good reason for not returning the prints after the war, saying she was too poor and distraught at the time to think about it.
The novel covers the long road trip, with Anna driving a cantankerous and disapproving Goldie, who continues to harp at Anna for her marriage to her now deceased husband Ford, a librarian below her in status and unsuitable in every way, according to Goldie. The real reason for the trip becomes clearer at the end of the book when Anna discovers more about Goldie - her true affection for Anna and Goldie's past and history.
My comments: The book is both a revealing historical novel and a heartfelt romance. The historical sections are the flashbacks to Goldie's life in San Francisco in the 1940's as well as her life as a young Jewish immigrant trying to make it in New York City before and after the war. Romance in Goldie's life covers her years in San Francisco, her first heart break and her first marriage, and her second marriage in New York.
Though the book was to me slow in parts - the details of the trip sometimes too long - it was worth getting to the later chapters when Goldie's secrets are revealed and Anna is tempted out of her reclusive widowhood into a new relationship and a chance for a new life.
Recommendations: For those who like American WWII historical domestic fiction and for romance lovers. It will also appeal to those who enjoy reading about intercultural relationships, family, and Japanese art.
Title: The Secret of the Nightingale Palace: A Novel by Dana Sachs
Published: February 19, 2013; William Morrow paperback
Genre: historical fiction, romance
For more reviews, visit Book Tour stops by TLC Book Tours. I received an ARC of this book for the tour.
Dana Sachs is the author of the novel If You Lived Here and two books of nonfiction, The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam and The Life We Were Given: Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam. She lives in Wilmington, North Carolina with her family.Visit her website, Facebook, Twitter.