Book Review: Dreaming Water by Gail Tsukiyama

This book had me absolutely hypnotised and staying up way past my bedtime on the two nights it took me to read it (working full time is really cutting into my reading habits!). I’m going to have to find a copy of the Samurai’s Garden by the same author just to see if it’s as well written.

The story is about Hana, who suffers from Werner’s syndrome and is growing old before her time. It’s also about her mother, Cate, who is terrified of having to let her beloved daughter go. It’s also about Josephine, the daughter of Hana’s childhood friend, who isn’t sure where she fits into the world anymore. The begins alternating from Hana to Cate, sharing small, intimate details of their lives and histories. The story is slow and delicate, almost as fragile as Hana herself and is beautifully woven and poignant. Eventually Josephine takes up the tale and you can see she is an angry young girl who is just trying to keep the threads of her live from unraveling any further. It’s a stark contrast to the sorrowful but strong Cate and the accepting and wistful Hana.

What I found most beautiful about this book is the simple, pure love between mother and child. Cate is unwavering in her devotion to Hana. It’s strange that Hana appears older than her mother and yet in Cate’s eyes, she is still a little girl, long-legged and laughing on the beach. And Hana loves Cate equally – she knows what Cate has given up to care for her and she knows that some day she is going to die and leave Cate alone and the thought terrifies her.
And there is much more love in the book – Max, Hana’s deceased father, features in nearly all the memories that Hana and Cate relate. Laura loves Josephine and Camille with the fierce protectiveness of a lioness. Even Dr Truman is secretly in love with Cate and longs to help Hana live longer.

This book is soft and quiet and sweet and beautiful and the echoes of all the love in it will follow you for long after you’ve finished. This is a short review because you should just go and read it for yourself – it’s a little slow to start, but well worth the build up.

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