A Stirring Historical Mystery

Clark and Division by Edgar Award-winner Naomi Hirahara brings readers into the poignant struggles of a Japanese American family in 1944 Chicago. After spending two years in the Manzanar internment camp, twenty-year-old Aki Ito and her family face another blow—the mysterious death of Aki’s sister, Rose, ruled a suicide by police. Convinced of foul play, Aki is determined to uncover the truth, thrusting us into a tale woven with historical intricacies and the harsh realities of racism and displacement faced by Japanese Americans during and after World War II.

Hirahara’s portrayal of 1940s Chicago is rich in historical detail, offering a vivid backdrop to the personal and communal challenges Aki navigates. While Aki’s journey is an interesting exploration of identity and resilience, some narrative choices—like an oddly placed anecdote about cross-dressing—feel disjointed, detracting from the story’s coherence. The book’s conclusion arrives abruptly, diminishing the impact of the mystery.

Despite these shortcomings, Hirahara’s extensive research and dedication to portraying this dark chapter of American history are clear, making Clark and Division an important, if flawed, read.

Rated 3 stars, the novel has its moments and educative value, though it may not satisfy those seeking a tight, engaging mystery. However, for its historical insight, it might be worth exploring further in the series.

** Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book. The opinions are my own.

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