The Secret of the Nightingale Palace

What happens when a young Jewish girls falls in love with a Japanese boy at the beginning of WWII? How does this brief love affair tear apart the girl and how can she ever recover? What happens when a gay Jewish man needs to marry and produce an heir for his department store empire? What happens if a wife hated her husband as he died from cancer?

These are some of the questions that Anna and Goldie, an estranged granddaughter and grandmother, will learn about each other as they cross the country from New York City to San Francisco. Goldie is an overbearing, stylish, wealthy grandmother who had some harsh criticism for her granddaughter’s soon to be husband causing a rift that lasted beyond the life of the husband. Anna, only 35, hasn’t recovered from the death of her husband and hasn’t talked to her grandmother in almost 5 years when she’s summoned to NYC to help. Turns out, Goldie needs to return an item that she’s held in safe keeping to her Japanese friend from her life in San Francisco over 60 years ago.

The story feels a little tired. This isn’t the first time that we’ve had the skipped generation story, whether they’re related like this novel or not. But this is a great story. The grandmother has lived a great and filling life while silently bucking the social norms. The granddaughters story doesn’t feel as full as the grandmothers but she’s also many decades younger. They both learn from each other, but the younger of the two has less history to bring. Its mostly the older, wiser, more stylish grandma leading the way when it comes to figuring out life and love, even if she’s kept it secrets for years. Which should be expected that someone who’s older should understand life better. And while I enjoyed this novel, its something I feel like I’ve read before, and not as original as many of the reviews give it.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read, even if a bit trite.

Read June 2015

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