Fifty Words for Rain” by Asha Lemmie

Review by Seana Zimmer, adult services library assistant at the Hillsborough branch 

I found another new author! Asha Lemmie creates a complex, emotional tale where the reader can get lost in Japan of the 1950s. Rendering a tale of aristocracy of old-world Japanese traditions and values from the viewpoint of a young girl, readers slowly gain insight into the larger family dynamics in a culturally rich setting. 

The story begins when a mother drops her illegitimate child, Noriko, at the gate of the grandparents’ mansion. Locked away for years, Noriko views the world from her attic room, an isolation that she accepts with quiet grace. She spends her time learning to read and becomes a voracious reader.

Once she is released from the attic and can venture outside, she prefers the familiarity of viewing the world alone and from above, such as in a tree. When her violin virtuoso brother comes to live with the grandparents too, music is added to language as a method of communication. 

The love between siblings and conflicts between generations adds depth to these characters. Growing up within the constraints of tradition harkens to the currently popular shows about English royalty and heirs to titles. In the end, everyone in the family must decide if tradition should overshadow love and individuality. The intensity of emotions pulls at the reader.

Although I do not want to give any spoilers, and this is not a mystery novel, I was surprised by the ending of this saga. I hope you explore this era of Japan and lose yourself in the intensity of this family.