REVIEW: Midori by Moonlight by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga
Dear Ms. Tokunaga,
I was really looking forward to Midori by Moonlight. It sounded so interesting: a Japanese woman coming to San Francisco to marry an American man, only to get dumped for his ex-fiancée and then left to fend for herself. I don’t think I’ve read many womens fiction/chick lit novels with that premise, and I’m always looking for something new and different. But I’m sorry to say, while the idea may have been fresh, the execution was not.
In Japan, thirty-year-old Midori Saito is the nail that can’t get hammered down. She loves all things American, balks at her parents’ matchmaking attempts, and dreams of moving to the United States to work as a tour guide. When an American proposes to her after a whirlwind romance, it’s her dream come true. Unfortunately, the dream doesn’t last long — her fiance dumps her the day after their engagement party.
Midori has no desire to return to Japan. She’s finally in the U.S., where she’s always wanted to go, and she has no intention of proving her mother’s dire predictions correct. Lucky for her, her ex-fiance has an old college friend, Shinji, who offers her the spare room in his apartment after hearing her plight.
What frustrated me most about this book is that its many good points were overshadowed by the stale and unoriginal. Soon after moving into Shinji’s apartment, she meets his neighbor and is immediately attracted to him, but her pursuit of him leads to an unsurprising end. Shinji’s girlfriend Tracy is jealous of Midori, who remains oblivious of the fact for much longer than can be reasonably believed. And was there any doubt about how the relationship between Midori and Shinji would end?
Midori as a narrator didn’t help matters any either. While I adored Midori’s love of pastries and desserts and liked how she kept getting American idioms wrong, her misunderstandings seemed less like a result of ignorance about American customs and cultural norms and more a result of stupidity and willful ignorance. I almost stopped reading several times during the first third of the book because of her. Perhaps this is simply a matter of novel-reader disconnect because many times I felt the humor was derived more from watching Midori be a “stupid Japanese girl” than anything else and that’s not something I enjoy reading.
On the other hand, what saved this book from being a DNF read was the presentation of cultural fetishization and how it affects romantic and sexual relationships. Midori has only ever been attracted to Caucasian men. Her ex-fiance, while planning to marry his Caucasian girlfriend, secretly frequents host clubs in Japantown. Shinji has only ever dated Caucasian women. Shinji’s girlfriend loves all things Japanese. I liked how these aspects intersected and showed us that sometimes it’s not the actual thing you love but what it represents. In the end, this was a C+ read for me.
This book can be purchased in trade paperback. No ebook format found.
“sometimes it's not the actual thing you love but what it represents”
that’s a deep thought. with the bonus of being very true. well-said, and another thoughtful review
It’s really interesting how different reviewers’ opinions can differ. In the end though, I’m more of a fantasy reader than a romance reader so I’m sticking with you. My TBR list is way too long, anyway.