Sophie Littlefield's newest book mostly likely won't be shelved in the crime fiction aisle of your bookstore, but don't let that fool you. Garden of Stones is most definitely a crime novel. It's a novel of love, a novel of crime, a social novel, oh heck, let's do away with silly labels, it's a damn good novel.
Lucy Takeda is a prime suspect in the possible murder of Reg Forrest. "Possible" because it's also possible the man committed suicide. However, Lucy has a history with Reg Forrest that reaches back to her childhood...
When Lucy was 14, The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and American officials began rounding up Japanese-Americans and confining them to internment camps. Lucy's father had just died; she and her mother were alone and forced to leave the only home Lucy had ever known for the Manzanar prison camp.
The transition from an upper middle class life to the harsh conditions of Manzanar were jarring but not impossible for Lucy and her mother. Lucy met her first love, Jessie, and her mother secured a good job sewing. But without Lucy's father, the two Takedas were vulnerable and their beauty would prove to be their greatest enemy.
As Littlefield guides the reader through Lucy's emotionally charged life in Manzanar and beyond, she demands empathy, unveils evil in its purest form, envelopes the reader in beauty beyond the skin, and even throws unexpected twists into the mix to keep the suspense high. Garden of Stones reaches far beyond anything Littlefield has written to date. She's stretching her writing muscles and showing readers what she's got. Folks, she's got a lot!
While Garden of Stones has many of the qualities that make Littlefield a great writer--strong female characters, universal themes, flowing dialogue--it differs dramatically from her Stella Hardesty series. I say this only so readers don't go in expecting the humor and lightness of the Stella Hardesty books. Garden of Stones is heavy and emotionally taxing, but it's also beautiful in its depiction of the human spirit's will to survive.
Ugliness happened in this country, an ugliness we don't often speak of. Garden of Stones reminds us of that ugliness so that we remember. We don't have those same internment camps today, but are we possibly exerting the same prejudices that plagued our country all those years ago? It's good to remember the ugly in hopes that it won't rear its head again.
Garden of Stones is available in trade paperback from Harlequin MIRA on February 26th.