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The Favorites

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  208 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
From an award-winning author whose debut story collection received unprecedented praise, comes an elegant novel about mothers and daughters, secrets and silences, and familial bonds in a culture where custom dictates behavior.

In her exquisite first novel, Mary Yukari Waters explores the complex relationships among three generations of women bound by a painful family histor
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 2nd 2009 by Scribner (first published 2009)
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Jan 04, 2010 Marie rated it it was amazing
A rare gem of a first novel, this book beautifully evokes the sights, smells, sounds, depth of color, and culture of Japan.

Sarah, born to a Japanese mother and an American father, returns to Japan after living in the U.S. for several years (author Mary Yukari Waters has a similar life story). While there, she discovers layer after layer of secrets under the surface of family ritual and civility. Although she viewed her mother Yoko as clumsy and out of place as a non-native English speaker in the
Feb 22, 2010 Chris rated it liked it
Not the type of book I would normally read. A very powerful and moving book about three generations of Japanese and Japanese-American women. Four snapshots in time capture them interacting in Kyoto, Japan. The writer is a master of vivid imagery of time and place. I found myself reflecting on childhood memories of similar incidents as I came into contact with the adult world. A great book for a mother daughter storytime. This book can be a little exasperating to a Westerner with its indirectness ...more
Sonja - Intellectual Badass
Feb 08, 2015 Sonja - Intellectual Badass rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who want a feel of Japanese culture
Brilliant read! The story is a poignant reminder of the way secrets influence multiple generations. The writing was excellent! The world created in this novel was so tangible that it felt as if I was there. Definitely recommend this novel!
Jun 20, 2010 Anne rated it it was ok
The Favorites is the story of 14-year old Sarah, half-Japanese, half-American, who travels with her mother to stay with her grandmother in Kyoto. The family lives next door to Sarah's great-aunt, aunt, and cousins, but Sarah quickly discovers that family relationships in Japan don't always come with the same rules and expectations as those in America. As Sarah learns to maneuver the traditional ways, and better understand the secondary meaning of passing looks and comments, she also comes to bet ...more
I found this interesting at first as it portrays a certain period of Japan. The culture at that time is very different from modern day. I was intrigued by hint at family secrets and that the story was from the perspective of a teenage girl who has not been living in Japan. However this was not the case.

It certainly began well but soon I found myself bored. The family politics was very intricate. I would say this book is very deep and philosophical. I did not like how the characters were refered
Oct 03, 2010 Patricia rated it liked it
I waited anxiously for this to show up at the local library because her short stories are amazing. This novel did have some of the kind of insights that make the stories memorable and some lovely passages (hydrangeas and rain). However, many of the insights were delivered in an overly didactic way. Even if these were targeted for a young adult reader it seemed oversimplified, a bit heavy-handed.
Jul 26, 2010 Erica rated it liked it
I was really looking forward to reading this one and was a little disappointed. The first part of the book was really slow moving for me and I debated whether I should continue reading. It picked up after that and I did enjoy the rest of it. As a person who is quite knowledgeable about Japan, I felt that the Japanese elements of the story were a bit 'dumb-ed' down for an American audience.
Apr 20, 2010 Kat rated it it was amazing
This book is delicate masterpiece. I am honestly in love with this book!
Suzanne (Chick with Books) Yester
Like a soft whisper, Mary Yukari Waters' writing is quietly powerful. Her book, The Favorites, is simply wonderful. She perfectly captures the subtle nuances of a relationship between a mother and her daughter, and the 3 generations of women this story is about...

The Favorites is narrated through the voice of 14-year-old Sarah as she returns to Kyoto to visit her mother's family. Her innocent observations guide the story, as she learns about the beauty of Japan, the streets & surroundings th
Dec 29, 2009 Laurie rated it it was amazing
“Favorites” is a novel of relationships; mainly of mothers and daughters but also of sisters and cousins and aunts. Three generations of women have their relationships with each other bound by a secret that they all know, but must not talk about: One woman, widowed with one child already and another on the way in war-torn Japan, gave up her baby daughter to her sister-in-law. The two families live side by side, observing strict rules of behavior towards each other.

The first part of the story is
Feb 14, 2010 Katie rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The Favorites is full of vivid imagery and lots of beautiful descriptions. I felt a very strong sense of place in this one--the food, traditions, and people of Japan are painted in intense detail. The following passage is reflective of the book's overall poetic, reflective tone:

Years later Sarah would remember this afternoon for its intensity of color: the gleaming lacquer of the beetle against the bark, the hills rising all around them in a crescendo of green. ... When she grew older and began
Abuela Linda
Jun 07, 2012 Abuela Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is a gentle look into the family life of women in post-war Japan. It mostly involves glimpses into everyday life as women cope with handling and event that happened well in the past, is not overly discussed, yet colors every transaction and meeting. It also concerns the acculturation of an Amerasian girl, Sarah Rexford, (dad a US professor, mom, one of the members of this family) and her visits to her mother's family in Kyoto.

I would have given this book five stars except that I foun
Feb 03, 2015 Becky rated it liked it
I liked the first part of this book a lot. Very psychological. Insightful. Gave me a glimpse into traditional Japanese culture. But I felt like the characters stopped developing 2/3 of the way into the book and I lost interest in the story.
Feb 28, 2014 Fatima rated it really liked it
I loved this book. So compelling. It was very well written. The characters were all well developed and the way the "secret" was slowly revealed was so gripping! Mary Waters is a great story teller- really want to read more of her works!
Cyndi Scholes
May 23, 2015 Cyndi Scholes rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, more than I thought I would. I have an estranged relationship with my own Mother and I also have a daughter so I found it comforting reading about the complexities of the Mother-Daughter relationships. The author did a wonderful job of dancing images of Japan in ours minds whilst weaving through the lives of the characters. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book!
Deliciously delightful throughout. Yes, the story meanders a bit, and it might feel like not much happens overall. But the journey is what makes this book.

The details of the scenery and surroundings are simple, but they slow you down and make you want to savor the images created in your mind. I wanted to pause after a section or chapter, just to let it sit in my mind before moving to something new.

It is definitely a book about culture, but also about relationships, mainly about how things aren't
Jul 20, 2009 Tommy rated it really liked it
THE FAVORITES is a very nicely constructed novel examining Japanese women's relationships, particular the motions in and out of certain social/familial circles. This story depends less on plot than on slow and subtle character transformation, and although there is an easily identifiable protagonist, she disappears for almost an entire section of the book. And yet this novel is filled with lovely moments, and if the story's basic arc is not immediately evident, the final two chapters do bring the ...more
Jun 08, 2016 Linda rated it liked it
I found the culture of this Japanese family interesting. Unfortunately, I found that I was muddling through half way.
Laura Williams
Aug 13, 2012 Laura Williams rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
I really enjoyed this book - in many ways it reminded me of Amy Tans the Joy Luck Club but then it was far more subtle and layered. Perhaps the difference between the Chinese and Japanese people themselves. I keep trying to find more novels like this one that leave me fully satisfied. I enjoyed the characters and even the slow pace - it reminded me of a weavers loom and the slow shuttle back and forth of the weave through the two layers of the waft. I was really sorry when this novel finished. I ...more
May 20, 2010 Huda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english-books

يوكو تنحدر من عائلة كاشيمارو اليابانية
تتزوج بأمريكي وتنتقل للعيش في كاليفورنيا
إلا أنها تعود من فترة إلى أخرى إلى موطنها الأم
وترافقها ابنتها النصف أجنبية، سارة

هل سبق وتسائلت عن الشعور الذي تخبئه الملامح الآسيوية المتشابهة بشكل مخيف؟
لأي مدى تؤثر علينا الصدمات الثقافية والحضارية
بعد العيش لفترة طويلة خارج الوطن؟
كيف تستطيع " الابنة" أن تنادي غريبة ب أمي
وكيف تستطيع "الأم" مقاومة لمس ابنة أنجبتها

ثلاثة أجيال، وسر كبير يتحكم بها

أحببت " جو" القصة جدا
ولو ترجمت إلى العربية لكنت رشحتها للمجموعة القرائية
Jul 12, 2009 Iva rated it really liked it
Lovely writing by an author who is l/2 Japanese and l/2 American. She has spent her early years in Japan. The reader first meets Sarah, an American girl who spent her first 5 years living in Japan. She returns with her mother at age 14 to find three generations of a family with deep secrets. Life in present as well as post war Japan is revealed in beautiful prose. One comes away from the novel with a deeper understanding of Japanese customs and history.
I read it so long ago that I don't really remember much, except that the imagery was evocative, and that there was way too much drama surrounding this particular family secret (giving children out for adoption to other branches of the family was common practice in Japan). Also, too much of accentuating of differences between Japanese and American cultures – yes, they are different, how about we move on?
I did not read the ebook, but rather a hardcover from my library.
In a stitled Japanese sort of way, it was a very nice story. She was able to show how two women's stories sifted down through 2 generations in a surprisingly convoluted style but it meshed well with her voice. It was believable but very terse, or reserved in her style of presentation. Nice though.
Aug 29, 2009 Catrina rated it really liked it
Shelves: japan-books
I picked this up not expecting much, but found beauty in the profound sense of loneliness and sadness. It was a very interesting (and truthful) look into the culture of uchi and soto, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Waters' writing is clear and precise and I definitely want to read her short stories now.
Diane Blodgett
Sep 12, 2011 Diane Blodgett rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! It was set in Kyoto, Japan and was about a Japanese woman who married an American man. They had a daughter. The book focuses on the relationships of the grandmother, mother, daugher, and Japanese family members in Kyoto. I read it in one day--I couldn't put it down!
Nov 22, 2012 Jessica rated it really liked it
"In the process, they had caused damage—to each other, to innocent bystanders. And although they would never be true friends, each understood what the other had gone through. Each understood the nature of the journey. Life was difficult. Safe havens were few and impermanent."
Dec 05, 2012 Christine rated it liked it
I had high expectations for this novel after reading the authors short story collection and really loving it. But I was very disappointed with her novel. I could barely stick with it to the end. Very little happens and it's a super slow read. My best grade would be a 2.5.
Jul 20, 2013 Patricia rated it really liked it
Delicate and muted, set in Japan over 30 years after WWII, this is a tender and moving story of mother-daughter relationships, old traditions and deep family secrets. A lovely novel...a fine balance of drama and restraint.
Sep 08, 2009 Kathleen rated it liked it
So many secrets exist in this novel among the women in an extended family in Japan. Customs and politeness reveal a culture that isn't what it seems. Waters knows how to weave together a sad tale.
Sep 28, 2009 Linda rated it really liked it
Recommended to Linda by: Mary Graddy
This is a poignant story of three generations of Japanese women and their relationships. Wonderfully written and a nice change from the geisha and foot binding stories of Japanese women.
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