In Dilloway’s third novel, two estranged sisters wonder what they can learn from a 12th-century female samurai.
Rachel and Drew Snow grew up in an unusual household. Their American father, Killian, had purchased their Japanese mother, Hikari, through a mail-order-bride catalog. Rachel always resented her father’s domineering ways; he turned Hikari into a submissive housewife and expected complete obedience from his daughters. Now in their 30s, the sisters rarely talk, and their family is permanently fractured. Their mother is suffering from dementia and living in a nursing home, Killian is battling Rachel for power of attorney so that he can put his wife in a cheaper home, and Drew is adrift, without a steady job or relationship. Only Rachel, happily married with two children, seems to have her life together. That is, until her mother, in a rare moment of lucidity, tells Rachel she must find a special book she left for the girls, a book about the legendary woman samurai Tomoe Gozen. Rachel enlists Drew’s help to find the book and get it translated. As they embark on this project together, burdened by years of conflict, hurt feelings and an impossible desire to know more about their mysterious mother, Drew and Rachel discover, in each other and in themselves, a power they didn’t know they had—a power to heal, to forgive and become sisters once again. Alternating with Rachel and Drew’s story is the story of Tomoe Gozen and her unlikely friendship with her lover’s wife, Yamabuki. In the hands of a less experienced novelist, this format might have become trite, but the two narratives don’t draw obvious parallels. The ways in which Rachel and Drew learn from Tomoe and Yamabuki and apply those lessons to their own lives are unexpected and ultimately satisfying.
In this enjoyable novel, imperfect and at times unlikable women become lovable.
This layered novel about a family reconnecting in the wake of a mother’s dementia diagnosis has incredible range—Dilloway swings between relatable modern family drama and epic, centuries-old tales on a dime. (A 12th-century Japanese swordswoman is at the heart of Sisters’ story within a story. Game of Thrones buffs, you’ll be in your bliss.) No matter what thread she’s spinning, Dilloway writes in a hushed style that makes the reader feel serene. Is it underselling someone’s hard work to say their book feels like a literary “om” chant? Because I mean it as a huge compliment—and a thank-you.
Megan Angelo, Glamour Magazine
Coming later this year…
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THE TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA is the standalone, 464 page historical novel companion to SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW.
Tomoe, growing up as a girl in rural 12th-century Japan, never supposed she’d be more than a servant to the volatile Lord Yoshinaka Minamoto, the boy her family had raised after a bloody uprising. But when Tomoe’s father discovers her natural talent with both sword and bow and arrow, he trains her to become an “onna-bugeisha,” a “woman who studies the art of war.”
Tomoe becomes Yoshinaka’s concubine and his deadliest military captain, a woman who will be an important part of the epic civil Gempei War between the Taira and Minamoto clans. But when Tomoe meets a handsome samurai with noble ambitions, she must decide between her loyalty to the difficult Yoshinaka, or moving away from all she knows to an even more uncertain fate.
Yamabuki, the daughter of a disgraced nobleman, is not pleased to be married off to Yoshinaka, known as “the hillbilly of the north.” She’s even more dismayed to meet Tomoe, the beautiful warrior who is not happy about Yamabuki’s marriage, either. Can the two women form a friendship despite their differences? Will they survive this time of war?
Now Available in Paperback: The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns
WINNER OF BEST WOMEN’S FICTION AWARD, the American Library Association’s Literary Tastes Reading List
“Book-club alert! Dilloway’s exquisite little novel, about a biology teacher who breeds roses so she won’t have to think about her kidney disease, brims with all the heart-tugging appeal of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.”– Entertainment Weekly
“This radiant debut pays moving tribute to the power of forgiveness.”– People Magazine, 4 Stars
A 2011 John Gardner Fiction Book Award Finalist
Read the first two chapters of How to Be an American Housewife: Housewife Excerpt