Friday, October 04, 2019

Stone Field, True Arrow

Stone Field, True Arrow / Kyoko Mori
New York: Picador, 2000.
288 p.
I picked up this book by chance recently, mostly because of a mention in the blurb that the main character is a weaver and makes clothes. These things always interest me! Later I realized that I'd also read her YA novel Shizuko's Daughter,  many years ago.

This is the author's debut adult novel, and while it is was interesting there were flaws in my reading experience.

Maya Ishida left her artist father in Japan when she was sent to live with her estranged mother in the US when she was only a child. She's always found her mother harsh and unloving, and missed her father and Japan so much that she has become an emotionally withdrawn adult.

She's created a comfortable life for herself, finding a job in a small clothing boutique, and an apartment/studio above it as her refuge. Strangely enough, she's also found a husband, a local high school teacher who isn't demanding but is also still enmeshed with his ex-wife.

Maya is detached from all of this, from life, from her relationship with her husband (which eventually breaks down, not surprisingly; there seems to be no emotional connection between them at all). But she meets someone else, a man full of spirit and energy who is also an artist -- what she has always aspired to, though she has settled into her life of weaving wearables as her art form. I found it strange that at one point Maya seems to disregard her own weaving, which has been commented on multiple times already in the book as unusually beautiful and artistic, as a secondary choice to her ideal of "real" art, painting. As a textile focused maker myself, I believe that weaving, sewing, quilting ARE art and are not secondary to painted art. Maya is a weaver; she is an artist. The author's choice in making this statement was unclear in the plot for me.

This is a very quiet, muted book. The plot has a few emotional eruptions, both positive and negative -- but there seem to be many failed relationships throughout, not just Maya's own - and Maya never leaves behind her extreme detachment from everything around her. Of course, the word Maya is also a Buddhist term for the illusory nature of the world, so perhaps that detachment is an integral part of this character.

In any case, I found this a satisfying read, though a slow one. I was in the right mood for it, and the elements around weaving, yarn, and clothing were engaging and beautifully told. The characters themselves were a bit sad sack and there is no emotional resolution to the story, which I would have preferred to see. So, while uneven and not fully satisfying, I still wanted to finish this and see what happened to all these characters. Perfect if you are looking for a quiet melancholic read as we move into the fall.

(this review first appeared on Following The Thread)

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