Sunday, October 2, 2011

Book Review of Love in Translation by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

Name of book: Love in translation

Author Name: Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

ISBN: 978-0-312-37266-8

Publisher: St Martin's Press

Type of book: Adult, Japan, music, 2000s, abandoned, chick lit novel

Year it was published: 2009


Stuck. That’s how 33-year-old aspiring singer Celeste Duncan feels, with her deadbeat boyfriend and static career. But then Celeste receives a puzzling phone call and a box full of mysterious family heirlooms which just might be the first real clue to the identity of the father she never knew. Impulsively, Celeste flies to Japan to search for a long-lost relative who could be able to explain. She stumbles head first into a weird, wonderful world where nothing is quite as it seems—a land with an inexplicable fascination with foreigners, karaoke boxes, and unbearably perky TV stars.

With little knowledge of Japanese, Celeste finds a friend in her English-speaking homestay brother, Takuya, and comes to depend on him for all variety of translation, travel and investigatory needs. As they cross the country following a trail after Celeste's family, she discovers she's developing "more-than-sisterly" feelings for him. But with a nosy homestay mom scheming to reunite Takuya with his old girlfriend, and her search growing dimmer, Celeste begins to wonder whether she's made a terrible mistake by coming to Japan. Can Celeste find her true self in this strange land, and discover that love can transcend culture?


I liked the characters of Takuya and of Kenji, sort of, but other characters I couldn't stand. Celeste is very weak as a character and for some odd reason she and other female characters grated on my nerves. Celeste pretty much does very little to get the success she desires, and in the end she's just waiting for everything to fall into her lap. In The Mysteries of Udolpho, the female character Emily is not annoying to me (I will also be the first to admit that she's a very passive character,) but Celeste though, I can't stand her pretty much.


"And as far as the search for your relative, you must also be patient. You may think things will turn out one way, but you could have a surprise. The result may be positive but not exactly in the way you expected." (page 107) Also, trust your instincts.


This is a Japanese chick lit novel. For those who are not familiar with Japan and things about it, I doubt that you might enjoy it. (I have watched countless Japanese dramas with English subs yet I still hated the book...) It was written in first person narrative from Celeste's point of view.

Author Information:

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga received her MFA in writing form the University of San Francisco, and her short stories have appeared in a variety of publications. She lives in San Francisco with her Japanese-born surfer-dude/musician husband and their cat, Meow. Visit Wendy online at


It does have brief cultural references of Japan, but overall this is an annoying book, during first and second readings. For one reason or another the main character annoyed me greatly. She is not easily relatable and sounded too sweet and sugary, a Mary Sue or better yet a Cinderella. She claims to have been abandoned and whatnot, yet not once in the book has she displayed tendencies or personality of mistrust. I think her background is simply a salad or window dressing, and it didn't affect her psyche. Also when I got this book, (I asked for it,) I had hoped that I would like it, but my instincts were of a different story and in the end I should have listened to them.

2 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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