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The Woman in the White Kimono

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Oceans and decades apart, two women are inextricably bound by the secrets between them.

Japan, 1957. Seventeen-year-old Naoko Nakamura’s prearranged marriage to the son of her father’s business associate would secure her family’s status in their traditional Japanese community, but Naoko has fallen for another man—an American sailor, a gaijin—and to marry him would bring great shame upon her entire family. When it’s learned Naoko carries the sailor’s child, she’s cast out in disgrace and forced to make unimaginable choices with consequences that will ripple across generations.

America, present day. Tori Kovač, caring for her dying father, finds a letter containing a shocking revelation—one that calls into question everything she understood about him, her family and herself. Setting out to learn the truth behind the letter, Tori’s journey leads her halfway around the world to a remote seaside village in Japan, where she must confront the demons of the past to pave a way for redemption.

In breathtaking prose and inspired by true stories from a devastating and little-known era in Japanese and American history, The Woman in the White Kimono illuminates a searing portrait of one woman torn between her culture and her heart, and another woman on a journey to discover the true meaning of home.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published May 28, 2019

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About the author

Ana Johns

1 book253 followers
Ana Johns is an award winning, international bestselling American novelist. Her first historical fiction, THE WOMAN IN THE WHITE KIMONO, published with critical acclaim in over 24 languages, has been a No.1 bestseller around the world, a BBC RADIO2 Book Club pick, Salt Lake County Library Reader's Choice winner, and a Reading Agency World Book Night 2023 selection.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,861 reviews
Profile Image for ReadAlongWithSue .
2,636 reviews170 followers
September 8, 2019
What have I just read! Oh boy, I am in shock.
I loved this so much!

When asked by the publishers if I’d like to consider reading this, I read the blurb.

I’ve been reading a lot of thrillers and after reading the blurb on this book, my thoughts were, oh, set in Japan about an arranged marriage, seems pretty simple, obviously she didn’t want to marry her suitor.

Was I wrong!
Well....I was right but not in the full sense of this.

It’s not what I thought, it’s not “just” a love story it’s so very much more than this.

There’s a side by side story running parallel too which comes together in one huge emotional BANG I wouldn’t have guessed it if I tried in a month of Sunday’s.

It’s sad, it’s emotional, it’s uplifting and my word.....when I got to the end I laid my kindle down and couldn’t help appreciating the superb writing. The insight to The culture and beliefs.

The love between a Mother and daughter.
Friendship and learning to trust.

Hardship and adversity.
Being strong, and I don’t mean just being brave.


This story will stay with me forever.

It’s been Women in translation month. This is near right?! It’s at least based in another country.

Oh.....I have to tell you this.

When I got to the end and reading the authors thoughts and where she had taken her information from I was shocked!
This is based on fact.
It’s fiction but it happened.

If you read it, you will understand what I mean.

I was gobsmacked at the facts, I was born in 1958.

These events are based in the 50’s.

An absolutely amazing and informative read.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,055 reviews30k followers
May 27, 2019
A beautifully-told work of historical fiction! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Woman in the White Kimono is told in two timelines. The first is Japan in the 1950s.

Naoko Nakamura’s arranged marriage to the son of a friend of her father’s is important to reinforce the status of her family in the community; however, Naoko loves another. She’s in love with a gaijin, an American sailor.

To marry an American would be shameful for her and her family. Naoko becomes pregnant, and she is cut out of her family and left on her own to make decisions with grave outcomes impacting her for a lifetime.

The second timeline is the US in the present day. Tori Kovac’s father is terminally ill, and she is his caretaker. She finds a letter with a shocking secret. Tori travels all the way to Japan to find the truth.

Ana Johns was inspired by true stories to write this novel. Her writing is glorious and poetic with a beautiful setting. I knew very little about this time in US and Japanese history. The choices Naoko faced were devastating. Her love for Hajime was so stunningly drawn.

The Woman in the White Kimono is not suspenseful, and I don’t think it’s meant to be. It’s simply a powerful and emotional portrayal of a woman trapped between her true love and her family, culture, and security.

Overall, complex characters with a profound and poignant story, I highly recommend The Woman in the White Kimono for historical fiction fans.

I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
Profile Image for Dem.
1,177 reviews1,067 followers
February 23, 2022
Oh I loved this……… An elegant and beautifully written historical fiction story which was loosely inspired by the military experience of the author's father.

I had been wanting to read this book for some time and for some unknown reason just kept putting it off. I am so glad to have finally read this beautiful story and enjoyed every minute spent with this book.
Japan 1957 Nabokov Nakamura has fallen in love with a young American sailor. While she is convinced her family will accept him in time, she makes plans to spend the rest of her life with the man she loves. However her family can’t accept the situation and turn their backs on her and she is forced to make unimaginable choices.
America - Present day Tori Kodachrome finds a letter containing a shocking revelation in which she questions everything about her father and her family to this point. She embarks on a journey to find the truth and confront her father’s past.

Oh I do enjoy books where family secrets come back to haunt in present day times and The Woman in the White Kimono is tender, beautifully written and deeply moving and really does make you pause to think and wonder about this time in Japan’s and America’s history.
It’s a suspenseful novel and you become invested in the characters and want the best for them.

I particularly loved the ending. Highly recommend. A beautifully written novel and another one for my favorites and real life bookshelf.
Profile Image for Berit Talks Books.
1,999 reviews15.7k followers
June 3, 2019
𝐁𝐞𝐚𝐮𝐭𝐢𝐟𝐮𝐥. 𝐄𝐯𝐨𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞. 𝐌𝐞𝐬𝐦𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐳𝐢𝐧𝐠.

Ana Johns swept me away with her words and her stunning storytelling. Two women, two countries, thousands of miles and decades of years apart, but there is something that binds them. Japan 1957 Naoko finds herself caught between love, culture, and family obligations. Naoko is 17 and her parents have arranged a marriage for her, a marriage that will help her family’s business out immensely. The problem is Naoko is in love with another man, an American soldier. Not only does this not go over well with her family, but it does not go over well with most of Japan who still sees America as the enemy in this post WWII era. But Naoko is determined to follow her heart, but how much will she lose in the process? The US, present day Tori is taking care of her ailing father when she discovers a letter full of secrets. After her dad passes away she sells his beloved Cadillac and takes a journey to Japan to find out the truth.

Beautifully told, I was completely mesmerized by Miss Johns’ writing. I know I’ve mentioned this before in a review but I find the eastern culture fascinating and I am always excited to read about this part of the world. I truly had no idea there was so much hatred towards America in Japan after WWII, but why wouldn’t there be? I could only imagine how challenging this relationship was for Naoko, although I think she was a little naïve as to what all was implied. I found her to be a bit of a contradiction she was strong and feisty, but had the innocence of a child. What she went through was horrific, and it is incredible that I have read so many books that take place in so many different parts of the world where women are subjected to similar situations. The sad thing is I’d venture to guess things like this are still going on today in certain parts of the world. While I found Naoko’s story more compelling than Tori’s, tori’s story might have been the more important one. I like how the storylines were brought together, but it sure did not end how I was hoping it would. Although there is probably more truth in tragedy.
September 1, 2021
The Woman in the White Kimono, is a work of fiction based in 2 decades, the present day and Japan 1957. However, it draws its inspiration from the authors fathers own experience having met and fallen in love with a Japanese girl while he was enlisted in the US navy and the many Japanese women, exiled in their own country or discriminated against in the US. That is for the small number that managed to overcome the strict immigration laws in the US.

Ana Johns tells their story through two women, Tori Kova, the daughter of Hajmine who is dying when the story begins and Naoka Nakamura who knew the boy that became the man.

Naoka is destined to fulfil her father’s wishes and enter a prearranged marriage to Satoshi, son of a wealthy business contact of Naoka’s father. However, the daughter’s heart has been stolen by another, Hajime and soon finds herself, like many before her, pregnant with his child. Naoka’s father has strict rules and refuses to acknowledge the daughters wishes and despite her cunning plans to make her father see sense he remains rigid and unrelenting. For the other family members, the advice comes through some elegant quotes

“You must choose your love and love your choice”
“To know your direction you must know both your roots and your reach”

Naoka, marries Hajime and on her wedding day receives an unexpected visitor with a very special gift. Her mother who brings her own White Kimono for the wedding ceremony and stays long enough to see her daughter dressed. Hajime leaves 2 weeks later with a promise of return.

Tori, has been given a letter by her father, written to Naoka (Cricket) which blows a hole in Tori’s own image of her father, who had never disclosed this person he loved and the daughter he had fathered (Little Bird). Wanting to connect with her family, Tori sets out for Japan to uncover the truth and that she does. In doing so she learns more about her father and his previous life, for he has loved and fathered another daughter. Tori learns to accept the love her father had for this other wife and she also finds peace for the two sisters share a name Little Bird, only Tori’s in Japanese means little bird.

This is a heartfelt story because it happened to so many Japanese women who suffered from the ingrained prejudices in the US and in Japan. Over 10,000 children were born to US service men, and many were surrendered to an orphanage in Oiso for mixed race children. Never to be accepted in either society.

The story is familiar to many readers, but Ana Johns wrote this story with such passion but not “sappy”. I loved the story, it was sad but uplifting, and it felt real with some simple but powerful messages and quotes throughout, which made this book very special. A great read and a pleasant change for those of us who like Crime / Thrillers and a perfect choice for those of us who also like historical fiction.
Profile Image for DJ Sakata.
3,008 reviews1,736 followers
June 17, 2019
Favorite Quotes:

Each step I took brought me closer to my future and farther away from my family. It was a contrast of extremes in every sense, but I had somehow found my place between them. That was what Buddha called the middle way. The correct balance of life. I called it happy. A life with love is happy. A life for love is foolish. A life of if only is unbearable. In my seventy-eight years, I have had all three.

“Chase two hares and you will catch neither,” says Grandmother. This is but a single parable in her arsenal of many. She releases them like arrows, but instead of one, which breaks with ease, she slings ten to a bundle.

I should hurry, but I’m already late, and as Grandmother says, “If you are going to eat poison, you may as well clean your plate.” I kick the gravel, causing angry puffs of loose dirt to rise in protest.

When I first met Hajime in Yokosuka, his eyes charmed me. They captured light and sparkled like water absorbing the sun.

To pick the correct one is fate. To pick the wrong one is also fate. So, you must choose your love, and be prepared to love your choice.

Time is a stubborn creature that delights in goading you. When happy, it sprouts wings and flies. When waiting, it drags through thick mud with heavy feet.

My Review:

Ana Johns is a bewitching storyteller. Her expertly crafted tale mesmerized and gutted me while essentially holding me transfixed to my Kindle from start to finish. How is this astounding work her first novel?!? I rarely cry but this poignantly written book moved me to tears several times and, okay, I will even confess to ugly cry sobbing. Any author who can perform such a rare fete deserves a ten-star rating.

The storylines were a well-researched blend of fact and fiction while cunningly related within brilliant and highly emotive narratives. I instantly fell right into Ms. John’s cleverly woven story as if sucked into a vortex that zipped me back and forth from post-war 1950s Japan and present-day USA - and thankfully did so with without jetlag, confusion, or motion sickness. The characters were compellingly drawn, admirable, and strong - yet struggling with limited choices and truly miserable options. I was intrigued, horrified, staggered, completely invested, heartbroken, enthralled, and totally engaged by this powerful and transportive story. It is safe to say that Ana Johns has a newly minted fangirl.
Profile Image for Aga Durka.
199 reviews60 followers
June 3, 2019
“...worry gives a small thing big shadows.”

“The Woman in the White Kimono” is a mesmerizing and emotional read. This is why I love historical fiction genre so much, books like this one truly captivate me, give me all the feelings, but also every single time, allow me to learn new things. This story is poetic, hypnotic, and elegant while it also digs deep into the history of Japanese women during WW2, who found love in less than traditional places. Women ostracized for whom they loved, disowned by their families, cut off from everyone they known and loved, and forced to make choices that were truly heart breaking.

“The ground beneath my feet shifts, causing outward tremors in all directions. We stand on a cultural fault line, the fracture running miles deep, and the potential aftermath catastrophic. My intent may displace sides, but this baby connects us all like a bridge...”

Ana Jones not only writes in a beautiful and graceful style, but she also shows passion for her work by the way she presents the research she had to do while writing this novel. While this book is not a mystery or suspense read I could not stop reading it, there was such a strong pull for this story that I read it in just few hours. I highly recommend this book to all the historical fiction fans.

Thank you Edelweiss, Park Row Publishing, and the author, Ana Johns, for giving me an opportunity to read an early copy of this beautiful book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Profile Image for Jessica.
563 reviews775 followers
June 17, 2019
I received an ARC of this book for free from TLC Book Tours as part of a review tour.

This was such a heartbreaking read! It was sad, yet beautifully written.

This book has dual storylines, but I loved that the author really let the historical story shine! Naoko’s story was the more interesting of the two, so I was glad that the author devoted more time to it and was able to really flesh it out.


The subject matter of the book touches upon a very unknown part of history. It deals with the relationship between American servicemen and local Japanese woman and the children they had. I never knew about this so I was really fascinated by this story. Also being mixed race myself (I’m Filipino and white) I was particularly struck by the attitudes towards mixed race people. I could tell that the author did a lot of research and I liked the author’s note at the end where she talks about the real life inspiration behind the book.

The strongest part of the book is the writing. Ana Johns writes in such a tragically beautiful way that perfectly captures the mood of the story.

The book is a little slow in the beginning, especially with the contemporary storyline. But by the time you get near the end, you’ll be flipping pages like crazy to find out what happens next.

Overall, I recommend this book for historical fiction lovers, especially those with an interest in Japan.
Profile Image for J.C..
Author 41 books425 followers
February 18, 2021
I've seen Woman in the White Kimono compared to Memoirs of a Geisha.

I've read both.

As someone who has lived in Japan, married to a Japanese, and watches plenty of Japanese TV, my personal opinion is that Woman in the White Kimono is so much better. The meticulous research that went into the time period is coupled with an amazingly authentic voice, where a glorious narrative evokes emotional highs and lows. It's a poignant story of love, loss, and redemption.
Profile Image for Maureen.
314 reviews67 followers
October 28, 2021
This is a real heartbreaking story. A fiction novel based on the author’s fathers own experience. He fell in love with beautiful Japanese girl while serving in the
U.S. Navy, but her family did not approve because he was American.
Ana John’s sweeps you away with her beautiful writing and prose.
“A life with love is happy. A life for love is foolish. A life of if only is unbearable.”

Japan 1957, Naoko Nakamura has a pre arranged marriage to someone she doesn’t love. Naoka is in love with her American sailor, and wants nothing to do with the arranged marriage. To marry her sailor would bring shame to the family. When Naoko thinks that she is pregnant, she is shunned from her family.

Present Day America, Tori Kovac is caring for her dying father and is given a letter from her father about another life he lived prior to marrying her mother. After her father passes, Tori takes a trip to Japan to find the truth.

This is a beautifully written tale of love, hope and how prejudice can tear a family apart.
Just compelling.

Profile Image for Brittany McCann.
1,470 reviews379 followers
October 18, 2022
This story is told in two parts by two women—Naoko's story when she was 17 in 1957 and her American sailor. The second part of the story is told in the present-day with Tori Kovac and a letter her dad hands to her as he is dying from cancer that was returned from Japan and talking about his daughter. The two tales are interwoven as they head towards a climactic ending that may merge their lives.

Honestly, this book was emotionally hard to read from the very beginning. Naoko had several crappy years of life during the book, and I always wanted her to find a way to get away from the oppressive, heavy mantle of traditional views. I was more emotionally connected to Naoko than Tori, as Tori's character was relatively flat in comparison.

I thoroughly enjoyed the epilogue about Ana John's life experience and her research and background into the ideas that came to life. I hope she continues to write as she has a gift for bringing history to life.

4 stars for me.
Profile Image for Mandy.
3,103 reviews261 followers
July 3, 2019
I found this a pleasant enough read but it didn’t get to me the way it seems to have got to so many other readers. I found it quite lightweight, and the characterisation rather hackneyed. Inspired by a true story, the novel tells of two women on opposite sides of the world whose lives collide unexpectedly. Yet another dual-time novel (isn’t this format getting a bit tired now?) we switch between Japan in 1957 and present-day America. Naoko Nakamura is being prepared for her arranged marriage to a man who will bring wealth and status to her family, but unfortunately she has fallen in love with an American – an oh so handsome and too good to be true - sailor stationed in Japan as part of the occupying forces after the war. Bet you can already guess where that part of the story is heading. Then we switch to America where Tori’s beloved father is dying and on his deathbed leaves her a letter telling her about his post-war experiences in Japan. You can fill in the rest of the story for yourself. The research is good and I’ve no doubt that Naoko’s experiences were all too common. It’s a sad story, but let down by the depiction of Naoko herself (so stereotypically Japanese) and Tori (so excitably American). All very predictable and ultimately, for me, quite dull.
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,045 reviews120 followers
July 25, 2019
Set in present day and 1950s Japan, we follow two women’s paths in life. Not really knowing much about post-war Japan, the writer successfully portrays a rigid culture that was immediately immersive and completely compelling.

I loved this book from the opening pages and felt that I could have easily read this in one sitting. Drawn in by the beautiful cover, the narrative itself is equally beautiful. The writer often makes references to Japanese folklore and proverbs and this enriched the story even more. Indeed, it felt as though I was reading a true story and I believed in the characters, both past and present.

It is evident that the author has researched this period of time and I was intrigued by a culture that I know very little about. The stigma attached to having relationships with the American soldiers meant that unfortunate women/young girls would find themselves ostracised from their family and ensnared in a very sobering maternity hospital. This is the situation that 1950s Naoko finds herself in. In contrast, present day Tori, discovers that there is more to her father’s past than she realised. Taking her on a journey to Japan, Tori and Naoko’s histories become irrevocably entwined.

The writer carefully switches between the two timelines and I appreciated how she gradually establishes connections between Tori and Naoko. I could not have seen how the story would conclude and I enjoyed the eventual revelations. I fell in love with the whole cast and the love between Naoko and Hajime was boundless. It was easy to picture these characters and believe in the struggles that they faced.

This well written piece of historical fiction was a breath of fresh air with its unique topic. I have come across few novels that approach this time period and the writer creatively builds a narrative that is not too dense nor overwhelming. A powerful and emotional portrayal of two women’s difficult journeys, this will certainly appeal to all fans of historical fiction.

I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. With thanks to everyone at Legend Press and Ana Johns for allowing me to participate in this blog tour.

Profile Image for Maria Roxana.
515 reviews
April 19, 2020
”Femeia cu chimono alb este parțial o operă de ficțiune. Povestea de dragoste este inspirată din povestea tatălui autoarei, iar personajele și situațiile prin care trec sunt de asemenea inspirate din povești reale. Cartea este un omagiu adus celor aproximativ 10000 de copii de rasă mixtă, rezultați din relații dintre femei japoneze și bărbați americani, ale căror suflete s-au pierdut undeva între cele două țărmuri ale oceanului.”

Citind-o, am experimentat cam aceleași sentimente ca atunci când am citit ”Să nu mă părăsești” a lui Kazuo Ishiguro. Neputință, mânie, consternare, mai ales că e vorba despre niște prunci cărora li s-a refuzat dreptul la viață. Nu e o bijuterie lingvistică, dar e scrisă din suflet, e documentată, și ne face martorii unor orori care chiar au avut loc. Și poate ar trebui ca aceste cărți să ajungă la cât mai mulți oameni pentru a evita perpetuarea unor asemenea orori. Istoria trebuie cunoscută, tocmai pentru a nu-i repeta greșelile.

„O mână de timp nu poate fi cumpărată cu o mână de aur, Naoko. Nu te poți întoarce înapoi în timp și nici nu-l poți grăbi, trebuie să-i înduri curgerea.”

„Timpul nu iartă pe nimeni. Nu-i pasă dacă suntem fericiți ori triști. Nu încetinește, nici nu se grăbește. E o creatura liniară, care călătorește într-o singură direcție, constant chiar și atunci când trece prin durere.”

„Tristețea și fericirea nu trec. Se adăpostesc adânc și se transformă în înseși oasele noastre. Ne sprijinim pe picioarele lor neuniforme, încercând să ne menținem echilibrul, când, de fapt, nu există nici unul. Există doar iubirea. Doar adevărul.”
Profile Image for Ariannha .
970 reviews
September 10, 2020
“Con cada paso que daba me acercaba un poco más a mi futuro y me alejaba un poco más de mi familia. Era un contraste de extremos en todos los sentidos, pero de alguna manera yo había encontrado mi lugar entre ellos. Buda lo llamaba el camino del medio. El equilibrio correcto de la vida. Yo lo llamaba felicidad.”

¡Me encantó! Fue sencillamente espectacular. “Dos mujeres separadas por océanos y décadas a las que unirá la verdad”, es la mejor manera de definirlo.

“La mujer del kimono blanco” es el debut literario de Ana Johns, y vaya que lo ha hecho por todo lo alto. A pesar de ser una novela de ficción, está basada en ciertos hechos históricos reales y en la historia de su propio padre.

Esta historia nos permite viajar a Japón, a finales de los años cincuenta, en donde conoceremos a Naoko Nakamura, una joven nipona que rompe la tradición de aceptar un matrimonio concertado, rechazando a su prometido para casarse con un marinero norteamericano. Por otra parte, nos encontramos en Estados Unidos, en el presente, en donde Tori Kovač descubre una carta que cambiará su vida y hará que emprenda un viaje a una aldea remota en la costa de Japón en busca de las respuestas sobre la historia de su padre.
Y así, narrada entre estas dos líneas temporales, separadas en el tiempo y espacio, nos encontramos una emotiva novela que aborda la dureza del Japón de la posguerra desde un prisma muy humano.

La lectura no es solo amena y atrapante, sino que si realmente hace que te sientas una fuerte atracción por el mundo oriental y todo lo que lo rodea, disfrutando de un sinfín de detalles y curiosidades sobre Japón, un mundo simbólico se abre de par en par, repleto de tradiciones y rituales. Su narración es sencilla, pero hermosa.

Los personajes son maravillosos y están muy bien construidos, la autora hace especial hincapié en las figuras femeninas de la historia, sobretodo en lo que muchas japonesas vivieron durante la postguerra y al escarnio al que se vieron sometidas, no sólo por su familia sino por la sociedad en general. La fuerza del personaje de Naoko, es absolutamente indiscutible, me encanto su fortaleza y carácter.

El final es totalmente emotivo y hasta cierto punto desgarrador, pero para mí fue un cierre perfecto, que viene a ejemplificar que, en la guerra, no hay vencedores ni vencidos, sino que todos pierden algo.

En definitiva, “La mujer del kimono blanco” es una historia de amores imposibles y desgracias humanas cuyas heridas se conservan a lo largo del tiempo.

100% recomendado

“Escoger el camino correcto es cosa del destino. Escoger el camino equivocado también es cosa del destino. Así que debes escoger qué amas, y estar preparada para amar lo que escojas.”
Profile Image for Zoe.
1,753 reviews157 followers
June 28, 2019
Poignant, beautiful, and incredibly heartwrenching!

The Woman in the White Kimono is predominantly set in Japan during the late 1950s, as well as present day, and is told from two different perspectives; Tori, a young journalist who journeys to Japan after her father's death to unravel the secrets of his past and to find the family he may have left behind, and Naoko, a young Japanese girl whose forbidden love for an American soldier will change her life forever.

The prose is vivid and expressive. The characters are multi-layered, vulnerable, and resilient. And the plot is a profoundly moving tale about life, love, familial relationships, heartbreak, loss, guilt, grief, desperation, courage, hope, and regret.

Overall, The Woman in the White Kimono is the perfect blend of historical facts, evocative fiction, and palpable emotion. It's a bittersweet, tender, affecting tale that will not only make you smile, make you cry, but resonate with you long after the final page has been read.

Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for providing me with a copy as a prize during the #savvyreadthon.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,818 reviews494 followers
March 16, 2020
The author's debut novel, The Woman in the White Kimono is about two women, oceans and decades apart and the one secret that binds them together.

When Tori Kovac's dying father hands her a letter, she has no idea that it will change her life forever. As the chapters alternate between the present and 1950s Japan, Tori tries to discover the whereabouts of the Japanese woman that her father loved and the family that she still might have.

This was simply one of the most beautiful stories that I have read in awhile. I was literally glued to my seat as this heartbreaking story unfolded. I haven't read that many books about postwar Japan and the author clearly illustrates the tensions between the Japanese and the American military. The characters and the writing were fantastic and I wait in anticipation to see what Ana Johns will write next.

Goodreads review published 16/03/20
Profile Image for Jiny S.
300 reviews23 followers
June 23, 2019
This story is about the plight of the Japanese women who fell in love with gaijin (Americans) during the period right after the second world war. The homogeny of Japanese culture is deeply rooted in its respect for tradition, and this combined with patriotism fuelled by the humiliating defeat still fresh in people’s memories, Japanese women who choose to pursue a life as a partner of a Gaijin and the children as a product of their relationship are shunned from society. This is the story of such Japanese woman, Naokao, who fell in love with an American sailor named Hajime (James).

From the first moment, her family opposed to marrying their daughter to a gaijin when a prearranged marriage to her father’s business associate’s son is considered to be a better match. After the rumours of her becoming pregnant with Hijime’s child, Naokao’s mother gave her to choice of running away or get rid of the child and going through with the prearranged marriage. Naokao chose to follow her heart and chose the path less travelled.

Although Naokao and James got married by themselves, they struggle to have their marriage validated by first by Naokao’s family, and then by Jame’s officer whose permission they need to travel to America. Soon James is drafted back to work and Naokao is left to defend herself and her unborn baby girl in a rented little place in a not so great part of the town.

After Naokao discovering that a funeral left her family home, she rushed back and found her mother died. While grieving for her mother, she experienced labour pains and thought she was going to lose the baby. Her family sent her away to do “some tests” and it turned out to be a place where women with legitimate pregnancies are paid to carry their babies to term. The woman who ran the place would pinch the babies’ noses right after they are born. Naokao tried to escape twice, and succeed the second time, where she fled to a monastery where she gave birth to a girl. The child is sickly and does not eat properly. Without a home to go back to, and having a child to take care of, Naokao begged her father to take her back. Her father agreed to take her in, but not the sickly child. In the end, Naokao buried the child and married the man she was arranged to marry.

The story itself while having an interesting premise, does not conjure up a complex set of characters nor a convoluted plot line compared to some of the other books I’ve read recently. The story oscillates between present day America, where a investigative journalist discovers that her dying father lived another life before the family she knows all her life and post war Japan where a young girl followed her heart to be with a gaijin.

Tori’s story is almost nonexistent. Instead, it merely introduces the reader to Naokao’s story in a difference lens of time. She discovers that her father had a different life because he told her so right before he died. Wanting to find out more, she found the house from an address and a name from a marriage certificate. Flying to Japan, she found the woman who turned out to be Naokao and discovered her story.

The story is good—touching and full of heartbreaks. There are a lot of parables drawn from the Japanese culture. I can imagine some reader might find them a few too many, but I did enjoy them and find the lesson they teach meaningful. My favourite is the dragon one, where a man loved dragons all his life but was unable to face a real one when it appear in front of his eyes. It shows that sometimes people are in love with the idea of something, but are unable to face the reality of it once it’s realized.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Literary Redhead.
1,582 reviews477 followers
July 23, 2019
👘 👘 👘 👘 👘

A heartbreaking story of two cultures in two time periods: Japan 1957 and America today. In Japan, Naoko Nakamura falls in love with an American sailor with tragic effects. In the U.S. years later, Tori Kovac discovers a letter revealing family secrets that shock to the core. She travels to remote seaside Japan to uncover the truth and finds her authentic home in this gorgeously written novel that sheds poignant light on a gut-wrenching time in Japanese and American history. A deeply moving novel that will long stay with you.

Pub Date 28 May 2019.

Profile Image for Rodica Bacain.
103 reviews5 followers
January 11, 2023
" Tine minte ca dragostea mea e ca umbra ta - de nezdruncinat si mereu cu tine"
Asemeni unei tesaturi japoneze tesuta cu fire de matase aceasta carte infloreste pe multe planuri. Urmand un fir rosu din care intuiesti o dragoste imposibila dintre o tanara japoneza si un marinar american te astepti sa descoperi doar o poveste de dragoste. Dar nu este asa. Ar fi nedrept ca aceasta carte sa fie catalogata doar asa. Fiecare curbura te duce spre alte directii, te trezesti in fire tocite de vreme intr-un trecut despre care eu nu stiam foarte multe lucruri : despre copii de rasa mixta a caror soarta nu le-a dat prea multe sanse, prejudecatile aruncand aceste suflete nevinovate in orfelinate sau cel mai adesea in ghearele mortii. Nu este intamplatoare asemanarea acestei carti cu o tesatura japoneza, pentru cei care au citit cartea vor intelege cat de importanta este esarfa de matase care a trecut oceanul pentru a-si gasi destinatarul. In afara de faptele reale care au dat nasterii fictiunii din carte, trebuie sa mentionez si multitudinea de povesti presarate printre randuri. Fie ca sunt rostite pe tonul grav al tatalui care isi incanta copila cu povesti fantastice cu imparati si printese, dragoni si locuri mirifice si care au de fapt la baza propria lui poveste , fie ca sunt relatate de Naoko cu credinta legendelor din cultura japoneza, toate au un farmec aparte.
Si unde mai pui ca este o carte de debut, scrisa atata de frumos, cu patos si devotament, cu responsabilitate fata de dramele trecutului. Mi-a placut foarte mult!
"Timpul e o creatura incapatanata careia ii place sa te intarate. Cand esti fericit isi deschide aripile si zboara. Cand astepti. se taraste prin noroi gros, cu picioarele greoaie."
" Cancerul ne-a dat timp, dar i-a rapit valoarea."
Profile Image for ♏ Gina Baratono☽.
723 reviews110 followers
June 25, 2019
I am not sure I have enough superlatives to describe this book!

Ana Johns has done an amazing job with this novel. The characters are so incredibly believable you will feel their every emotion, and you will be rooting for the love of two people to prevail and overcome the cultural traditions and taboos they face.

The book goes back and forth between the present time in the United States to Japan in the 1950's, where the main character, Naoko Nakamura, falls in love with a "gaijin" (an American) sailor. He loves her more than words can say. However, following tradition, she has a prearranged marriage to the wealthy son of one of her father's business associates, and to not follow through on that goes against everything she was brought up to believe in. As if that is not bad enough, her deep desire to marry the man she truly loves would bring the deepest shame upon her family and would most likely negatively impact her father's successful business. All would pay the price if she doesn't marry the man she is supposed to, despite what her heart desires.

In the present time, Tori Kovac is cleaning out her father's home following his death, and she finds a mysterious letter that may mean that her father had a life before he married her mother - one that evidently involved his time in Japan decades earlier.

True to her career as a journalist, the mystery is one Tori must solve. Who is this Hijime mentioned in the letter? Why is there a piece of red yarn inside? Short on funds, Tori reluctantly sells her father's beloved car so that she can go to Japan and find out what exactly happened while her father served in the armed forces, stationed in Japan.

It is sometimes difficult to read a book that goes back and forth between locations and times, but Ana Johns accomplishes it beautifully.

It's a book well worth reading - one of those I absolutely did not want to end. I have already recommended this book in one of my Facebook groups. Loved it!
Profile Image for Lavinia.
162 reviews45 followers
March 27, 2020
Femeia cu chimono alb este acea carte pe care atunci când o cumperi simți că nu îi găsești locul în bibliotecă. Atât coperta deosebită cât și subiectul propus sunt elemente care „strigă” după atenție și singura șansă de scăpare este să o citești. Aceasta este povestea mea și a cărții pe care am citit-o pe nerăsuflate. Ana Johns lansează romanul care ne arată că și tristețea și fericirea sunt trecătoare. Dacă această afirmație are o notă pesimistă sau optimistă…asta tu decizi.

Recenzie aici:
Profile Image for Kate.
1,199 reviews2,225 followers
August 8, 2019

So uhm, I loved this?? I was anticipating this book the past few months and I’m SO HAPPY I found it omg. Full review will come later but in short this was heart breaking, beautifully written, a beautiful story and reminded me of “Three Souls” meets “The Seven Husband’s of Evelyn Hugo.” Yes. Let that sink in.
Profile Image for Leona.
1,718 reviews18 followers
April 18, 2022
I'm absolutely stunned. It is estimated that ~10,000 children were born to American servicemen and Japanese women after the occupation. Only about 700 survived. A must read.
Profile Image for Cristina Breazu.
41 reviews18 followers
February 23, 2022
Romanul ne prezintă povestea a doua femei, desfășurată în două țări aflate la mii de kilometri, zeci de ani distanță, culturi total diferite cât și legătura dintre cele două.
Naoko este o tânără care locuiește în Japonia anilor 1950, intr-o familie înstărită.
Conform obiceiurilor, familia acesteia a aranjat o căsătorie cu Satoshi, un tânăr japonez dintr-o familie bogată, însă Naoko se îndrăgostește de Jimmy, un soldat american.
Deși relațiile cu americanii imediat după război sunt foarte dificile, Naoko este hotărâtă să își urmeze inima.
Tori este o tânără jurnalistă de investigații care locuiește în America zilelor noastre și are grijă de tatăl sau bolnav.Aceasta găsește o scrisoare care o intriga, iar gândul că tatăl său ar putea să nu fie cine a crezut, o face ca după moartea acestuia să pornească în Japonia, pe urmele adevărului.
Datorită acestei cărți am aflat cât de mult urau japonezii cetățenii americani după război și cum relația cu un american însemna să fii exclus din familie și societate.Copiii care aveau neșansa să se nască dintr-o mamă japoneza și un tată american, erau condamnați sa suporte rasismul, insultele și o viață fără educație.
Personajul meu preferat rămâne Naoko, iar lucrurile prin care a fost nevoită sa treacă pentru ca s-a îndrăgostit de un soldat american m-au făcut să plang și sa fiu dezgustata.
Tori a fost personajul care nu s-a dat bătut și a mers pana la capăt ca să afle adevărul, iar mie acești oameni îmi trezesc admirație.
Finalul a fost unul neașteptat pentru mine, cumva trist și fericit în același timp.
Pot spune că este una dintre cărțile mele preferate care mi-aș fi dorit să nu se termine atât de repede.
Pentru mine romanul a fost de 5/5⭐
Citatul preferat:
,,Tristețea și fericirea nu trec.Se adăpostesc adânc și se transformă în înseși oasele noastre.Ne sprijinim pe picioarele lor neuniforme, încercând să ne menținem echilibrul, când, de fapt, nu există nici unul.Există doar iubirea.Doar adevărul."
Profile Image for Historical Fiction.
919 reviews567 followers
March 31, 2019
Find this and other reviews at: https://historicalfictionreader.blogs...

I picked up Ana Johns’ The Woman in the White Kimono on the cover image alone. I didn’t read the jacket description until the ARC was on my kindle and when I finally did get around to looking at it, I groaned in exasperation as my personal tastes don’t lend themselves to post-WWII fiction.

To make a long story short, I was not convinced this novel would suit and was caught entirely off guard when I fell utterly in love with the text. Johns’ draws readers in with the poetry of her prose and I was moved by her ability to craft such an emotional narrative from such a distressing episode of little-known history.

As a dedicated reader of historical fiction, I was naturally more interested in Naoko’s half of the narrative, but it was Tori’s that ultimately brought a tear to my eye. Johns’ passion for research is evidenced throughout the narrative, but the vulnerability displayed by her characters took my breath away.

The novel is not suspenseful or overly ambiguous, but despite understanding where the story was going, I couldn’t bring myself to put it down. Eloquent, poignant and profoundly crafted, The Woman in the White Kimono is an absolute must read.
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