The Sweetest Fruits

Viking. Sept. 2019. 304p. ISBN 9780735221017. $26. f ;.
Eight years in the making, this latest from Truong (Bitter in the Mouth) is a historical novel about writer Lafadio Hearn, born in Greece of a Greek mother and Irish father and eventually a naturalized Japanese citizen whose work offers insights into the culture of his adopted country. Strikingly, Truong weaves the voices of three women—Hearn’s mother, Rosa Antona Cassimati; his first wife, Alethea Foley; and his second wife, Koizumi Setsu—to tell the story. Each woman describes her life with Lafadio, ultimately carrying him forward from his birth to his death, and each meditates on her hardships as a woman in the 19th century. Through their voices, readers are taken on a colorful journey from the Greek island of Cythera to Ireland, Wales, Cincinnati, and finally Japan.
VERDICT Containing minimal dialog, this work is rich in descriptive detail that some readers will enjoy, though others who prefer more character-driven interaction may be daunted. Nevertheless, those who follow the work through to the end will discover three fascinating women whose stories clarify the life of a man just as remarkable in his time. [See Prepub Alert, 3/11/19.]

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