Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield

Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield vacillates between 1978 and 1941.  After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which is when the United States began interning Japanese-Americans, Lucy Takeda and her mother, Miyako, are told to store their belongings, but end up selling them for pennies before they are shipped to the desert and the internment camp, Manzanar.  Lucy has felt the sting of bias in her Los Angeles high school, like when she was passed over for lunch monitor in favor of another girl and when the boys corner her at recess, but nothing prepares her for the hatred and oppression she experiences at the internment camp.  Her mother is a manic depressive, who barely got out of bed when their lives were simple, but in the camp, things change and her mother has to feign strength to protect her daughter.

“Aiko caught the hem of her coat and dragged her back.  The coat’s buttons popped off and went rolling down the sidewalk.  One went over the curb, through the grate, and disappeared into the blackness below the street.”  (Page 31 ARC)

Littlefield weaves in and out of 1941-43 and 1978 with ease and without relying on one character telling another about the past.  Rather, the stories run concurrently as Patty struggles to uncover her mother’s secrets and Lucy remembers her own past and her own mother’s secrets.  Readers are taken on a journey into the past and are emotionally tethered to Lucy and her struggles as a young Japanese-American in a less-than-forgiving society and who finds herself and her mother at the mercy of the men in power.  With two murder mysteries, Littlefield has her hands full, but her cast of characters are so human that readers will forget about the mysteries for a while as they come to know Lucy and her family, learn a bit about American history, and see how determination and perseverance can push someone to make unbelievable sacrifices and never regret them.

“In Manzanar, words took on new meanings.  Lucy learned to use the word doorway when what she was describing was the curtain that separated each family’s room from the hallway that ran the length of the drafty barrack building.  In short order they developed the habit of stamping on the floor to announce a visit, since there was no door to knock on, but they still called it knocking.”  (page 75 ARC)

Fourteen-year-old Lucy has a lot to learn about being a woman and what earning her way really means for a Japanese-American during WWII.  Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield is about lessons in love and family loyalty, but also about seeing the beauty in the darkness.  A surprising gem of a novel about a black time in American history when fear took over and spread to those Americans most vulnerable — forcing them to navigate an uncertain world and look over their shoulders at every turn, hoping to remain safe from harm.

About the Author:

Sophie’s first novel, A BAD DAY FOR SORRY (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2009) has been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, Barry, and Crimespree awards, and won the Anthony Award and the RTBookReviews Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Mystery. Her novel AFTERTIME was a finalist for the Goodreads Choice Horror award.


This is my 9th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.


  1. This one really makes me want to read it. I’m very curious about this period in our history.

    BTW..no matter what computer I use or browser, it always takes forever for my comments to go through and most of the time it doesn’t. So I go back to do it again and of course it states that it is a duplicate comment. Has anyone else had these problems?

    • Staci, I have no idea about the comments. I’ve had this problem myself. I’ve asked the woman I work with for hosting and she had me get rid of some comment area widgets to see if that helped, like commentluv, but that hasn’t seemed to help at all. I’m going to have to revisit the issue with her.

  2. I have had this book for a little while now! I need to read it though because it sounds like my kind of read.

  3. I can’t wait to read this one. I thought it was only about the internment camp, had no idea there were murder mysteries, too!

  4. This one sounds sooooo good!

  5. I’m not very familiar with this topic or Manzanar but this book sounds like a good way to learn about that time and place while reading some fascinating stories of the lives of these female characters, Patty and Lucy. Yours is the first review I’ve read of this book, Serena and you have me hooked!
    I really enjoyed your review, Thank you!

    • Amy, so glad I have you hooked. I really enjoyed this story and the mysteries about Manzanar. The present-day story is tied up well with the past story and totally makes sense. It really worked for me even though I had doubts about it in the beginning.

  6. This is one book that I’d really like to read. Great review today – you sparked my interest even more!

  7. This does sound good — will add to my TBR!!

  8. I’m glad to see more books written about this subject. This one sounds great!

  9. Beth Hoffman says

    This one sounds good!

  10. For once, I thought you and I were reading the same book but I see that mine is called In the Garden of Stone. Close, but no cigar 🙂

  11. Glad to find there’s another book about Manzanar! I really want to read this now!

  12. Love and family right up my street!