Losing Kei tells the story of Jill Parker, an American landscape painter living in Japan, a "fish out of water" who makes ends meet as a lowly bar hostess. When she falls in love with Yusuke, a savvy and sensitive gallery owner, she begins to feel she might finally be accepted in her strange and beautiful adopted culture. But among the myriad subtleties so easily overlooked by a foreigner, she discovers that in Japan, being the first-born denotes far more than order of birth. Yusuke is the chonan, an eldest son, responsible for the extended family's well-being and the upholding of tradition.
Sparks fly when this contemporary American-born woman is likewise expected to assume the role of servile Japanese wife and live under the watchful eye of Okaasan, Yusuke's mother, the mother-in-law from hell. Even the long-anticipated birth of a son, Kei, fails to assuage their difficulties. Divorce is certainly an option. But in Japan a foreigner doesn't necessarily have rights to custody and Jill must choose between personal freedom and abandoning her child.
"very interesting...It is a text for all of us." - Donald Richie, The Japan Times
"As LOSING KEI builds suspense, Suzanne Kamata deftly explores the contours of one Japanese family's xenophobia, its power to entrap the novel's American heroine, and ultimately to set her free." - Ellis Avery, Author of The Teahouse Fire
"Vivid atmosphere and characterization."
- Publisher's Weekly
"Suzanne Kamata has a gift for the thoughtful investigation of complicated subjects. With sensitivity and surety, she guides her readers on a journey through worlds both painfully familiar and utterly alien, always leading to surprising, sometimes poignant conclusions."
-Andrea Buchanan, Author of Mother Shock
"In her straightforward and elegant prose, essayist and fiction writer Suzanne Kamata masterfully depicts the poignancy of her experience as an American expatriate wife, mother and writer living in Japan."
-Wendy Nelson Tokunaga, Author of Midori by Moonlight
"Suzanne Kamata owns the sharp eye of one who lives on the border. Her territory is inter-cultural. She shows us, in clean, pared down English, what is peculiar to Japan. With few words, she somehow manages a huge American generosity. Her writing, often delicate and polite as translated Japanese, is big-boned, nonetheless, and substantial in all that it gives the reader. She is absolutely worth reading."
-Remy Rougeau, Author of All We Know of Heaven
"If her writing causes tears to come, it's because she's gotten the world right, because she knows what the world means. No extortion and no gimmicks. The words wend their way in and without you noticing it, you care, and what happens to these people matters, like your own life matters, like the writing shows you why it does."
-Andy Couturier, Author of Writing Open the Mind and A Different Kind of Luxury
"Suzanne Kamata's writing focuses on an American mothering in Japan, but within that terrain her rich, detailed prose mines some universal and difficult truths about motherhood."
-Caroline Grant, Editor of Mama, PhD.
"The post-divorce custody battle gets an international twist in Kamata's debut novel set in Japan...an intriguing look into one woman's experience with a culture very different from her own." --Booklist
"[Kamata] manages to move the action rapidly along without revealing too much or disclosing too little, and to keep the reader anticipating the next unexpected turn of events." --The Pacific Rim Review of Books
"...an effective portrait of the agonies of mothering a child in absentia, but fortunately for Jill, its ending contains a tender affirmation of the effectiveness of hope." --Brain, Child
"A gripping, entertaining yarn and a no-nonsense depiction of motherhood, expat life, and family turmoil in an eternally stranger-than-fiction land, Losing Kei is a formidable novel by any measure." --Kansai Time Out