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Summer of the Big Bachi (Mas Arai #1)

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3.41  ·  Rating Details ·  509 Ratings  ·  95 Reviews
In the foothills of Pasadena, Mas Arai is just another Japanese-American gardener, his lawnmower blades clean and sharp, his truck carefully tuned. But while Mas keeps lawns neatly trimmed, his own life has gone to seed. His wife is dead. And his livelihood is falling into the hands of the men he once hired by the day. For Mas, a life of sin is catching up to him. And now ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 30th 2004 by Delta (first published 2004)
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Ronald Wise
May 18, 2017 Ronald Wise rated it it was amazing
The introduction to new series of novels featuring an extremely captivating protagonist – Mas Arai. As a mystery/crime novel the intrigue and action of this one were compelling. But the genre was almost forgotten as I became increasingly absorbed with the character of Mas Arai. At first glance a grumpy old man, my sympathy for him grew as his big bachi came calling on a man already struggling to maintain a sense of integrity in a society that seemed to devalue him in every way. I actually finish ...more
Alton Motobu
Jun 29, 2017 Alton Motobu rated it really liked it
I am a 3rd generation AJA; I knew people like Mas in my own family as well as people in my community. They spoke and acted like Mas and his friends, so the characters and situations in the book were familiar to me. This book brought back memories, good and bad, of growing up in post-WW2 America. The backstory is a murder mystery, but the main story is a character study of Mas, his family and his circle of friends in LA. 2nd-generation Japanese Americans were caught between the connections to the ...more
Rage
Apr 25, 2016 Rage rated it liked it
I was super excited to read this book. The main character is not your standard detective; he's a gardener, and he came to America after WWII as a survivor of Hiroshima. That sounded like the promise of richly drawn characters, social/political commentary, maybe some discussions about culture and history... and a mystery!

But, once I started reading, I discovered that Masao, the main character, speaks in a weird accent ("Heezu" for he's, "knowsu" for knows). It sounds like something really small,
...more
Kim Fay
Apr 06, 2013 Kim Fay rated it it was amazing
Naomi Hirahara is another author I had the chance to learn about for the first time at the Tucson Festival of Books. Her mystery series about a grouchy Japanese gardener in Pasadena intrigued me, and when I read this first in the series, I was satisfied. I love reading about Los Angeles subcultures, I love history in my fiction, and this book had both, as well as a wry aging protagonist who I want to continue reading about. Mas Arai is a U.S.-born Hiroshima survivor who returned to America after ...more
Grace
Jun 04, 2016 Grace rated it it was amazing
Wow.

I "met" Naomi Hirahara at the recent Pasadena LitFest, thought she has interesting things to say, and decided to read the first Mas Arai book because the other panelists and LitFest attendees spoke so reverently about it.

I wasn't prepared for just how blown away by it I would be.

Yes, the language is a bit hard to understand at first. But, you have to understand that Mas and his buddies speak a dialect that is distinctly theirs. It's born of their isolation from both the Japanese in Japan an
...more
Denise
Dec 19, 2013 Denise rated it really liked it
This is the first book in the Mas Arai series of mysteries, and oddly enough, it is the last one I read. I have enjoyed all of them and would recommend them. There are not a lot of contemporary mysteries I read, so this is a big deal for me to recommend a book set in the present day. Mas is a pretty cranky protagonist, but he's very interesting. He's a survivor of the bomb from Hiroshima, even though he was born in California. In this mystery, someone comes looking for his old friend Joji Haneda ...more
Mary Helene
Feb 21, 2012 Mary Helene rated it it was ok
Shelves: mysteries
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rachelle
Jan 19, 2012 Rachelle rated it liked it
There is a darkness to this book as the protagonist, the 70 year old Japanese-American gardner in So. California comes to terms with his past. But he bravely peels away the layers of his history revealing how it shaped his relationships and choices. There are so many sides to the story of the Japanese-American experience in WWII with Pearl Harbor, their internment in the US, those that served in the US military, those who had returned to Japan prior the war and then finally those that were there ...more
Andrea
Mar 04, 2014 Andrea rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-noir, la
A wonderful book that started slow--like a boulder on its way down a mountain. It deals with the trauma of a past divided between an America and a Japan at war, the trauma of the atomic bomb, the trauma that lies between generations and between immigrants and their American-born children. But it's also some fine noir writing and a good mystery and I love it when one of my favourite genres explodes its traditional boundaries like this. I love it when a whole new side of Los Angeles opens up to th ...more
Sae-chan
Hirahara-san was true to the Japanese writing style. The mystery was complimentary, the gist was the story of human life.

Maybe it's really true, that when you have experienced something that was like this in one moment and turned to be like that the next moment, you caught a glimpse of evil. Not only the one around you, but the one inside yourself too. Why, I cannot get my finger on it. But I feel it's true.
Lane
May 22, 2017 Lane rated it liked it
Hmmmmm...not so sure about this series. The main character--Mas Arai--isn't a very appealing guy. Into gambling, not that loving with his wife or daughter, maybe a fairly decent friend but otherwise blah. Mas just doesn't have a lot going for him, even though he rather comes through in the end...just barely. I'm not sure that I would stick with him if he was my so-called friend. And not sure that I care a lot about what happens to him. I like his friends better than I like him.

The sketchy insigh
...more
Rebecka
Feb 25, 2017 Rebecka rated it liked it
I liked that I recognized some of the places.
Mark
Jan 27, 2015 Mark rated it really liked it
Masao “Mas” Arai, a 70-year-old Japanese-American gardener is haunted by loss: the death of his wife Chizuko, his estrangement from his only daughter Mari who now lives in New York and an ever-dwindling client list as Latinos he once hired as day laborers have gone into business as gardeners themselves.

A survivor of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Mas is always mindful to beware of bachi, the spirit of retribution. However, Mas fears that his sins of the past have finally caught up to him
...more
Rena Sherwood
Perhaps this isn't so much a book review as a warning of what may happen in your brain when you read a book like Summer of the Big Bachi while drowsy.

First off, I thought the title was Summer of the Big HABACHI so I was prepared for a light-hearted look at the misadventures of a backyard BBQ chef. (I don't read book blurbs anymore because they spoil the fun of picking a book solely on the basis of cover art and title.)

Imagine my surprise. I was also suprised when I finished the book and read the
...more
Chelsea
Dec 13, 2014 Chelsea rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Ages 13 and up
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Trish
Aug 09, 2010 Trish rated it liked it
First off I wouldn't categorize this as a Mystery as the publisher has done. Most of the mystery is about the reader finding out what the main character, Mas Arai, already knows.

What this book is really about is Mas, a 69 year-old Japanese-American who lived through the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, moved back to his birthplace, California, after the war and settled down into a "typical" American life in the suburbs of LA. But Bachi (sort of the Japanese version of Karma) seems to find him and
...more
Sarah
Jul 07, 2013 Sarah rated it really liked it
I thought Summer of the Big Bachi was very good and well-written, but I wouldn't really classify it as a mystery. The story centers on a 70-year-old Japanese-American gardener named Mas Arai who was in Hiroshima during WWII and now lives in Altadena, near Los Angeles. He has some secrets from the war that end up coming out during the summer of 1999.

There is a mystery of sorts (and a murder) but there is not such a big revelation at the end as I was led to expect from the description. Where the b
...more
Zen Cho
Apr 26, 2010 Zen Cho rated it really liked it
Really liked this, and will look out for the next book. I found Mas interesting and sympathetic and liked the portrayal of a multicultural community -- felt much more convincing than the whitewashed pictures of USA you get via TV and movies. Also thought the portrayal of the dilemma of the PoC growing up in a white-majority country -- what am I, what should I be etc. etc. -- was interestingly done. It had nuance.

I'm not sure if the way Hirahara transliterated Japanese-accented English is how I'd
...more
LJ
SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI (Mystery-Mas Arai-So. Cal-Cont) – DNF
Hirahara, Naomi – 1st in series
Dell Fiction, 2004, US Paperback – ISBN: 9780440241546

First Sentence: Mas Arai didn’t believe in Jesus or Buddha, but thought there might be something in bachi. In Japanese, bachi was when you snapped at your wife, and then tripped on a rock in the driveway.

Mas Arai was in Hiroshima when the bombs fell. Now, fifty years’ later and an older man, he is a widower with his gardening business in Pasadena. But
...more
Jill
Apr 26, 2009 Jill rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Carmen
Shelves: mystery
Okay, so this isn't about bocci the game but rather the Japanese concept of Bachi - something akin to kharma. I think this (mis)understanding would change the entire reading experience. But then, I'm all about expectation management.

This wasn't quite what I expected. Kind of like my (fairly regular) misadventures in the kitchen, I came to this book thinking it was far lighter than it turned out to be. Because I grew up in the area, it had many nice references to places I knew well, but I found t
...more
Ginger K
Jun 10, 2010 Ginger K rated it it was ok
I completely failed to connect with the main character, Mas Arai. (view spoiler)

He should be an interesting character.

And yet. I don't know. Maybe it was partly the phonetic Japanese dialect. (Thatsu for
...more
Marjorie Snook
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, mainly in the way Hirohara manages to chart the incredibly complex mix of Japanese Americans in Southern California--native born Californians who spent time in internment camps, WW II vets, immigrants from after the war, even Japanese immigrants from Peru. The descriptions of the bomb falling on Hiroshima were appropriately bone-chilling.

The weakness of the book, I think, was the way in which she moves the plot along. There is a lot that is a bit unbelievable. Inf
...more
Penny Ramirez
Sep 11, 2010 Penny Ramirez rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, series
This was an interesting book. Not my usual type of protagonist in a mystery, that's for sure. Sort of slow paced, with many flashbacks that are necessary for the unfolding of the several storylines.

Mas Arai is a Japanese gardener in LA, and a Hiroshima survivor. The novel, while focusing on a mystery in the present day, is really a character exploration of what it means to be a non-combatant survivor of a horrific war, and how different people dealt with those same circumstances. Mas is broken i
...more
Rebecca
Apr 23, 2010 Rebecca rated it really liked it
I made a mistake. I started Naomi Hirahara's mystery series with the most recent book. In my defense, it's the one I found first. Blood Hina left me cold because of a common problem with a series in any genre: often, authors do not explain the interrelationships of the various recurring characters by the third or fourth book. If I've been a fan from the start, this is fine. I know everyone, I don't want the plot bogged down by repetition. What if a reader stumbles, like I did, across a later ins ...more
Madonna
Jul 02, 2013 Madonna rated it liked it
I don't remember where I read about this book, but it was recommended. I did like it, but it seemed slow in places, and if I didn't have much reading time, I'd probably not finished it.
I liked the protagonist--definitely not what I was used to. He is a believable detective, I think his age gives him credibility.
I also like the supporting cast; not an "attractive" group, to say the least, but they, like Mas, have much to offer because of their life experiences.
I also enjoyed the historical aspect
...more
Audrey
Aug 06, 2013 Audrey rated it really liked it
This book was given to me as a gift and this is the first in a mystery series.

The main characters are Japaneses Americans, some who have survived the dropping of the A Bomb on Japan in WWII.

I liked the mystery although I did have some trouble following who was who as far as the characters were concerned at first but the book was interesting enough that I didn't want to give up and I'm glad I finished the book.

Mas, the main character is not perfect and while he does have some flaws, he is persist
...more
Nancy Walters
May 06, 2013 Nancy Walters rated it it was amazing
I love a good mystery so this was a joy to read! This book brought me back to my Pasadena roots, inviting me into the world or Mas Arai-Japanese American gardner and accidental murder investigator. The characters were well-drawn-their histories, flaws and strengths revealed in the unfolding mystery. The story took some interesting turns that took the reader from contemporary L.A., to Hiroshima, Japan, 1945. The author (who is a fellow South Pasadena High School Grad) provides particular insights ...more
Linda
Mar 28, 2008 Linda rated it liked it
I am not a fan of amateur detectives. I also think this book was just an excuse to explore the effects of Hiroshima on Japanese Americans. The plot depended way too much on coincidences, but overall this was an enjoyable read. I did find the protagonist to be interesting: it's not often that we get to see the world through the eyes of a Japanese American gardener. I'm not sorry I read this, but I don't think I'll read another in the series.
Update: well, after the mystery book club meeting, I may
...more
Lucy Takeda
Jun 07, 2016 Lucy Takeda rated it really liked it
I finally got hold of the first book in the series! The novel does help explain a lot of those relationships that didn't make sense when I read the later novels before. Mas is irascible, but he does follow a code of honor. There were lots of connections to make in this novel to figure out why things were happening the way they did, which makes sense, since it goes back to the bomb dropping in Hiroshima. I tend to be fond of determined, righteous older men like Mas. A knowledge of Japanese termin ...more
Betty410
Dec 04, 2015 Betty410 rated it it was ok
This is the first book of our Mystery Book Club choice for this author and as many of the first in a series I find some faults which usually gets worked out in subsequent stories.
It took about half the book before a mystery or a crime was even mentioned and that time was not utilized a I think it could have been in character development, especially with the peripheral characters. The unfamiliar names contributed to that, as well.
The author is deeply familiar with problems facing the Japanese, e\
...more
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PNWJETAA Book Club: Summer of the Big Bachi 1 4 Apr 07, 2013 09:29PM  
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Naomi Hirahara writes stories in the form of mystery novels, noir story stories, middle-grade fiction, historical nonfiction and personal essay. The third in her Mas Arai mystery series, SNAKESKIN SHAMISEN, won an Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Paperback Original. The first, SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI, will be published in France in 2015 as LA MALEDICTION D'UN JARDINIER KIBEI. The first in her Office ...more
More about Naomi Hirahara...

Other Books in the Series

Mas Arai (6 books)
  • Gasa-Gasa Girl (Mas Arai, #2)
  • Snakeskin Shamisen (Mas Arai, #3)
  • Blood Hina (Mas Arai, #4)
  • Strawberry Yellow (Mas Arai #5)
  • Sayonara Slam (Mas Arai #6)

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“You're a "chibi", and nobody notices you." Halfway good-looking people, according to Ricki, blended into the crowd. They never left any kind of strong impression. They were bland and anonymous. Ugly people, on the other hand, with fleshy noses or thin lips, always attracted attention.” 4 likes
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