Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Middle Son: A Novel” as Want to Read:
Middle Son: A Novel
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Middle Son: A Novel

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  132 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
For Spencer Fujii, Hawaii is not a vacation paradise but a place of hard work and heartache, the transplanted home of his Japanese-American family -- and the site of a long-ago tragedy that changed his world forever. Now, as an adult returning from Oahu to visit his ailing mother, Spencer is rediscovering what it means to be a middle son in a world where duty shapes destin ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published July 1st 2000 by Berkley Trade (first published January 4th 1996)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Middle Son, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Middle Son

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
J.D.
Dec 24, 2012 J.D. rated it it was amazing
Constructing Middleness: Hawaiian Identity in Deborah Iida’s Middle Son

Deborah Iida’s Middle Son (1996) is the life story of Spencer Fujii. The second of three sons born during the 1940s to a working-class family on the Hawaiian island of Maui, Spencer grows up torn between loyalty to his family’s traditions and the temptation to leave ethnic consciousness behind, to become westernized: a real American.

This sort of internal struggle is typical of the Bildungsroman; indeed, depicting the developm
...more
Celeste Noelani McLean
Jun 21, 2014 Celeste Noelani McLean rated it really liked it
I both adored this book and was completely frustrated by this book. I made my sister read it just so we could dish about all of the things we found problematic. There was a lot of dishing to do, though we agreed that we were very happy to have read it. The fact that it was a quick read really helped.

I haven't read nearly enough books set in an intimately authentic Hawaii, especially where the characters speak pidgin. Lately, have been on a kind of a mission to add more Hawaii dialect to my liter
...more
Cassie
Jan 07, 2013 Cassie rated it really liked it
I would like to share with you all a book that I have just discovered. I never really liked to read or got into a book before, until I read the book Middle Son by Iida Deborah. From the moment that I picked up the book till the last page of the book, my emotions were going crazy. I found that I had moments of tears rolling down my face but also moments of smile and laughter that brightened my day. Overall I would give this book four stars for three important but different reasons.
The first reas
...more
Carolyn Gerk
Jan 03, 2012 Carolyn Gerk rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful, short little novel. I found it as I was scouring Amazon for novels about Maui (that didn't feature the phrase 'here today, gone to-maui' or 'love in' or 'romance in' or any further cheap beach smut). I tracked this one down and ordered it to my library.
A quick read, due in part to it's short length and the fact that it is heavy with dialogue, Middle Son is an unexpected gem. The novel allows the audience to gain insight into post war Hawaii and the cultures within. A story
...more
Noctober
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David
Dec 28, 2011 David rated it really liked it
Being self diagnosed with a Middle Child Syndrome, I honestly thought that this book would be something like it and the next thing I knew, I was purchasing it along with other books that I bought in a thrift store. But as I read it and finally get through it, this book indeed was way different from what I had anticipated. It was rather a story about loss, friendship and family. And if there's one word that could perfectly fit for it, I'd go for heartwarming. This book was solemn as how the story ...more
Janice
Aug 02, 2015 Janice rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Spencer Fujii is a Japanese American. He is from Hawaii, and it is his duty to return to the island of his youth because his mother is sick. This island was no vacation wonderland for him and his family. There, work was hard. There was also a long ago heartache that we get dribs and drabs about. Spencer's older brother died young, and Spencer had to step into his shoes.

The reader learns about the responsibilities of older brothers to younger brothers through Spencer's dad's reaction to his young
...more
Anne
Jun 30, 2010 Anne rated it liked it
Set in Hawaii, Middle Son tells the story of Spencer, a sansei Japanese-American who has returned home from war to his dying mother. Ostensibly a middle son, Spencer lost his older brother while they were still children, and his younger brother was given up to relatives with no children of their own. The truth surrounding the death of the older brother has been kept a secret by Spencer and his younger brother their whole lives, and has haunted Spencer and his relationship with his parents. There ...more
Martha Bratton
Dec 05, 2015 Martha Bratton rated it really liked it
My husband brought this along to read in Maui, and I stole it from him. It's a wonderfullly atmospheric fictional memoir of growing up in the cane fields of Maui in the 1940s. This is one of those stories that makes you feel like you are there and it helped me get a feeling for the Japanese reserve and discipline within their families. The strain between decorum, respect, and adventuring out of those constraints provides tension, as does the central event of the story. The strong sense of place ...more
Beverly
Aug 17, 2011 Beverly rated it it was amazing
The middle son tells this story about his life. How he feels, how he is treated as middle son. The exceptations he deals with from his parents. His older brother is not as "truthful" as his parents seem to think, as a result the older son sircomes to his end, and William the younger son becomes the apple of the parents eye.
Deborah has a way of describing emotional ties with a desire for the reader to keep going to find out what will happen next.
In the end you are brought to lessons about your o
...more
Diane
Nov 16, 2007 Diane rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone bored
I thought this was wonderful Saturday book. A quick 200 pages that was so simple and sweet. Not so many details that it became confusing, but enough to get the point of the book. The point of this book is relative. Because it's about a Japanese family, tradition is different and there for someone caucasion may not agree. Brush up on your Pidgin English or be aware that the book comes from an angle in which Pidgin is spoken, which is typical of locals on the islands.

Amanda Jo
Oct 24, 2016 Amanda Jo rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the book, I felt that the author was able to portray the feelings and underlying currents of first and second generation Japanese Americans. I was impressed that she was able to capture the racial biases and over all sense of enduring that was so present during the time period. At times, the pidgin felt a little forced but I felt it's point came across as a sincere interpretation.

All in all this was a good read and made me nostalgic for home.
Jean
Good book for insight into post WWII japanese/hawaiian culture (from the viewpoint of those looked down upon and scrabbling an existence working on a cane plantation) in Hawaii but better for its sweep of family saga and well drawn central character. A novel written to seem autobiographical, it is very touching on issues of family ties, kinship adoption, and loss.
Kris Bordessa
Jul 25, 2007 Kris Bordessa rated it really liked it
Set in the sugar cane fields of Maui, Middle Son offers readers a look into Japanese customs, culture, and family relationships. Sibling relationships and expectations are forefront and the author does a beautiful job of painting the picture of a younger brother's adoration and an older brother's coming of age.
EVHS-Steven
May 22, 2015 EVHS-Steven rated it really liked it
Spencer grows up torn between loyalty to his family’s traditions and the temptation to leave ethnic consciousness behind to become a real, patriotic, American. Spencer takes on a similar outlook as my grandfather has towards his time in the camps, keeping his eyes on the positive and how he can help both his family and country.
Keonaona
Jan 15, 2008 Keonaona rated it liked it
My mom, who is Hawaiian, bought this when it came out; she liked it a lot and urged me to read it. It gave me insight into the world she grew up in (Wailuku, Maui, during the 1930s and 1940s), and made me appreciate the journey she had to make to leave that world behind and eventually settle in New England.
Heather
Jul 13, 2008 Heather rated it really liked it
Recommended to Heather by: B&N Bookclub
Shelves: cultural
A Hawaiian born Japanese son copes with his mother's impending death and the results of actions from his childhood while trying to bridge the jap of his Japanese heritage with the American way of life. It was intriguing. There were numerous examples of the theme, being caught in the middle, woven throughout the novel.
Laurie Mazzoli
This is a great book about a Japanese family who moved to Hawaii to work the sugar plantations. The cultural significance and surprising plot keep the work moving. An easy and necessary read for anyone who comes to Hawaii, The dialect leaves something to be desired.
Char
Jan 18, 2015 Char rated it it was ok
Easy read. Means to make a good story, but it felt rushed to me. Not well written. Phonetics used when japanese were speaking weren't believable to me, but I could be biased having a father who's right off the boat from Thailand.
Keith Fitzgerald
Feb 24, 2014 Keith Fitzgerald rated it it was amazing
Wow. A great book. Truly powerful.
MiSsY ((AdD m3))
t was okay...would not rekomend it tho..
Rachel Watkins
Jul 29, 2012 Rachel Watkins rated it liked it
This was lovely. Very different than my usual reads. Lots of Hawaiian and Japanese-Hawaiian culture. Most of story took place during the Vietnam era.
Jenna
Dec 01, 2008 Jenna rated it really liked it
Shelves: hawaii, japan
"Restrained" is an extraordinarily good descriptor for this novel. It represents the lushness of the landscape and the devastation of Spencer's history in a cool-headed, level progression.
Katkat!
Jul 01, 2013 Katkat! rated it it was amazing
One of those books that left a lasting impression. This helped to define my tastes in lit.
Emily Main Street Books
Emily Main Street Books rated it really liked it
Jan 28, 2015
Marlon
Marlon rated it it was amazing
Mar 25, 2012
Hands
Hands rated it it was amazing
Sep 24, 2009
Susan
Susan rated it it was amazing
Nov 27, 2013
Kara
Kara rated it it was amazing
Dec 27, 2016
Madison
Madison rated it liked it
Jul 13, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Lovingkindness
  • Name Me Nobody
  • Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption
  • Drunk with Love
  • Blue Skin of the Sea
  • East Wind, Rain
  • The Reckless Decade: America in the 1890s
  • The Death of Che Guevara
  • The Long Death: The Last Days of the Plains Indians
  • Lost Geography
  • My Fairy Grandmother
  • Sleeping Beauties
  • Daughter of Light (Kung Fu Princess, #1)
  • Missed Fortune 101: A Starter Kit to Becoming a Millionaire
  • Faces of Revolution: Personalities & Themes in the Struggle for American Independence
  • Was It Beautiful?: A Novel
  • There Is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America
  • Indian Country

Share This Book



No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »