Inheritors by Asako Serizawa


Inheritors by Asako Serizawa
English | 2020 | Historical Fiction | ePUB | 5..7 MB

From the O. Henry Prize-winning author comes a heartbreakingly beautiful and brutal exploration of lives fragmented by the Pacific side of World War II.

Spanning more than 150 years, and set in multiple locations in colonial and postcolonial Asia and the United States, Inheritors paints a kaleidoscopic portrait of its characters as they grapple with the legacies of loss, imperialism, and war.

Written from myriad perspectives and in a wide range of styles, each of these interconnected stories is designed to speak to the others, contesting assumptions and illuminating the complicated ways we experience, interpret, and pass on our personal and shared histories. A retired doctor, for example, is forced to confront the horrific moral consequences of his wartime actions. An elderly woman subjects herself to an interview, gradually revealing a fifty-year old murder and its shattering aftermath. And in the last days of a doomed war, a prodigal son who enlisted against his parents’ wishes survives the American invasion of his island outpost, only to be asked for a sacrifice more daunting than any he imagined.

Serizawa’s characters walk the line between the devastating realities of war and the banal needs of everyday life as they struggle to reconcile their experiences with the changing world. A breathtaking meditation on suppressed histories and the relationship between history, memory, and storytelling, Inheritors stands in the company of Lisa Ko, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Min Jin Lee.

Yellow Pear, her father said, testing the shape of the language that would one day replace her own. That’s name.

The plant grew, despite the confines of the pot and window, and produced a single cluster of tomatoes that collected like dewdrops. It sat there enjoying the sun that dazzled the room every summer for three years until one afternoon an avalanche of books, loosed by an earthquake, battered its limbs and broke its spine.

Oh well, her father had laughed, squeezing his shoulders to his ears like his Americanized cousin. That’s life, huh!

SOMETIME IN the fall the kind-faced daughter began staying with her. At first she stayed only on weekends, then during the week as well. This daughter was quiet. She did not disturb the house even when she washed dishes or folded laundry. While this daughter was around, TV was forbidden, so they sat in the kitchen with a pot of tea and talked about the new hiring the daughter was in charge of: gentle prattle that soon gave way to a gentle prodding of memory.

Remember when we went apple-picking and you got caught with your mouth full of Gala—or was it McIntosh?

Remember the time at the movies when you got up to use the bathroom and ended up in the exact seat you’d left, but in a different theater, next to a different family, without realizing it?

Of course she did not remember these stories, which nudged a darkness but did not illuminate it. What flared in her were childhood images. Like the time her father took her ice-skating on the lake behind the house in Niigata. She was six then, enamored of her skates, which smelled of new leather and not the usual musk of her brother’s feet.

Hot sun on her shivery back. She remembered the glint of the ice, her slashing blades, her fear of sliced fingers. Her skates skipped: the surprise of hard ice on her back and her father’s swishing blades crisscrossing so close to her face she could taste the metal slicing her breath.

Two years later she did rip open her face. A deep curve from her left ear to her chin. An unbelievably clean wound for such a messy incident. Grabbing the leg of a sleeping dog! But how could she have known? The dog was a friend. So fortunate the scar had followed her jawline. So fortunate she had a pretty face, astonishingly hard to ruin. Naughty girl.

Only one girl ever asked about her scar. This girl was fair-haired and fair-skinned and spoke with a foreign accent. New to Niigata, she was prickly, her turbulent face flashing at the sound of her name, which no one could pronounce. Mar. Joh. Ree! One day Marjorie sat next to her. Parting her hair, she inspected her face and, just like that, asked about it. What could she say to enchant this girl? She leaned into her ear—so pale she could see the blue and red lattice as delicate as the crazing in her family’s finest Imari china—and whispered that it was her father who’d done it. Flayed open her face with ice skates.

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