Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield
Published by MIRA, an imprint of Harlequin
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley

Lucy Takeda is fourteen years old when, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she and her mother are forced to leave their home, friends, and possessions and taken to the Manzanar prison camp. Separated from the one family member they have there, Lucy’s aunt, she and her mother are forced to make a new “life” in awful, unthinkable conditions. Thirty years later, Lucy’s daughter, Patty, learns of a local man who has been killed in his own home, and discovers that the police have narrowed in on her mother as a possible suspect. Patty’s concern for her mother leads her to doing some research on the man who was killed, and she discovers a connection to the prison camp she knows her mother lived in as a child but never, ever talks about. As the murder investigation continues, Lucy finally begins to open up to Patty about the horrors she suffered as a child, and Patty learns more about the horrific decisions Lucy’s mother, Miyako, was forced to make while at Manzanar.

Garden of Stones is an incredibly moving novel that will be an emotional read for even the most heartless of readers. This story of atrocities committed at a Japanese-American internment camp is incredibly difficult to read, but at the same time it’s an important read. As Americans, it’s crucial that we understand our history and the choices that we made as a country in the past so that we can make sure never to repeat them. And in Garden of Stones, Littlefield brings these atrocities to life in a way that makes the truth of what happened to Japanese-Americans during World War Two as real as possible.

Littlefield’s characters practically jump off the page in this novel, they are that authentic. I was heartbroken, breathless, and almost in tears as I read about how Lucy and her mother Miyako had to suffer the most horrific of conditions simply because they were of Japanese descent. I felt so deeply for these characters and for what they were going through, and as the book tips towards a shocking climax, I couldn’t put it down and leave these characters. I had to stick with them and find out how everything would turn out for them.

The interesting thing about Garden of Stones is that it’s apparent from the very onset that there are many secrets that Lucy is keeping from her daughter, and the reader can guess at them throughout the novel, but nothing prepares the reader for the shocking truth. The story is told in alternating chapters between past and present, so Lucy’s past is revealed at an incredibly slow pace, and this just adds to the feeling of tension and build-up in the novel.

There’s so many great things about Garden of Stones, I’ve barely skimmed the surface with this review. It’s a historical fiction novel about a dark time in American history. It’s a story with great characters that have to make difficult choices while facing impossible situations. It has a thriller feeling to it because there’s so much mystery surrounding what happened at the camp to Lucy and her mother. It’s good on so many levels, and I highly recommend reading it.