I’ve been on a streak of reviewing non-fiction books, in part because much of the fiction I’ve read lately hasn’t really been worth reviewing.
Requiem broke that streak. Set in the 1940 and 1990s Canada, it’s the story of a Japanese Canadian family and the legacy of the internment and the concept of family.
First of all, how did I not know that Canada had Japanese internment camps. In general, Canadian history doesn’t whitewash issues. I learned all about the deportation of the Acadians in 1755. I knew about the horrible things that happened to Native Canadians and the Metis. Nothing about Japanese Canadians.
After I got over that shock, I really liked this book. It brought me in slowly as I entered this foreign world of Japanese families in British Columbia in the 1940s. Reconstructing their world in these internment camps and then the decision of what to do when they were suddenly free.
The turning point of the novel is when the main character, Bin, is given away by his family to another man in the camp who has no son of his own. Instead of being the son of a fisherman, he’s now the son of a musician. He feels rejected by his father and has an uncertain relationship with his former siblings and his mother. When the two families move to two different parts of Canada after the internment, Bin is further torn.
The other part is Bin in 1997, so you see him as an adult and the pain that still remains.
I found the book reminded me of A Tale For the Time Being. Similarly gentle and slowly building. Much internal struggle. The outcome is similarly stunning. You feel like you have entered a different world and that world stays with you long after the book is finished.