Anne is an illustrator and recently widowed. Her husband dies from leukemia and it has been difficult getting her out of the house. Though she receives a phone call from her grandmother, Goldie, a Jewish woman, from New York to help her on a cross country trip to return a collection of valuable Japanese art from New York to California.
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Throughout their journey Anne begins to tell in detail about her troubles with her late husband and the standards she couldn't meet with her grandmother. After Anne's marriage to her husband, the granddaughter and daughter's relationship was cordial at best. Anne was mad at her grandmother's snootiness towards her husband, she could not understand why Goldie detested the south - Memphis, Tennessee - Goldie's very own hometown in the 1930s. After a push from her sister, Sadie and her husband's friend, Goldie reluctantly agrees to go on a cross country trip in her Rolls Royce to California to return valuable illustrations to the Japanese - American family that Goldie had not seen for fifty years. The journey appears to be what is needed to unite grandmother and granddaughter, but at first this is not easy to see, as the two women have such difficulty communicating with one another. However, as Anne revisits the Japanese illustrations she adored as a child, she begins to open up about her life and moving away from the guilt about her husband's death to leukemia and how her marriage desecrated.
Halfway through the story, the narrative changes to Goldie's point of view and explains her life when she traveled out west and moved to California in the 1940s. During this flashback, Goldie lives with her sister and finds a sales girl job at Feld's Department store. She becomes close friends with a Japanese-American woman, Mayumi Nakamura, and learns about a new culture and new way of life. Goldie shows the strength she had to do go with during the time of being young in a world beginning to go to war. Goldie's experience from being a small town girl from Tennessee and move to San Francisco in the 1940s shows a women who has wit and a sense of humor to explore the fine line of racism backdrop during the time. While she lives with her married sister in San Francisco, Goldie tries to find a husband but slowly she falls in love with Mayumi's brother, Henry. Goldie's heart breaks when Henry becomes engaged to another woman and sadly is raped by one of the employees-has a miscarriage. Goldie is then forced to marry Feld's in-the-closet- gay son Marvin. She gets pregnant with Marvin's child, which his parents are overjoyed about. Soon, however, they disinherit him and Goldie when they find out he is gay. They go to New York and Marvin is still an active army personal, but tragically his life was cut short. Goldie alone in the strange city and being a single other, uses her wit and charms, finds herself another job and re-marries Saul, but their marriage was always described as a "Business Relationship".
Eventually, Goldie learns that her only friend, Mayumi, is being sent to an internment camp, which devastates her. While Mayumi is packing she asks Goldie to take care of the illustrations, it was a Japanese block paintings called " The Reverend Maurice M. Castleman, Scenes of Japanese Women" and "The Reverend Maurice M. Castleman, Scenes of Japanese Life". The paintings are a family heirloom and the only person that Mayumi trusts to keep are Goldie. Goldie promises to keep them in her safe keeping and one day she will return the paintings to Mayumi's family.
Even though the return of the paintings took fifty years, the journey united Anne and Goldie's lives and it was used when it was needed the most. To show Anne that one needs to find strength and the love of family to help them move forward in their lives.
Best part of story, including ending:
The best part of the story is when Anne and Goldie is in Indiana and Anne falls for a doctor there. I love it that she finally sees that life does not go as one planes and there are multiple bumps along the road but you can always preserve and in the end get what you wanted.
Another wonderful moment is when Goldie is narrating her story - the whole story- and how she learned the lesson that life doesn't go as one plans but she still persevere and got what she wanted. I can tell that she wanted Anne to learn that lesson and gently pushes along to see that is imperfection in perfection.
Best scene in story:
The best scene is the window display preparation at the Feld's Department store for the Fourth of July. The decoration committee was headed by Goldie and Mayumi. They both recruited Henry and Marvin to help with the decorations, and how they interacted with one another and showed the life of young men/women in the 1940s of their hopes, dreams, and frustration of the world. This brought all four of them closer together than before and for the first time for Goldie she feels as though she made friends and starts to change slowly into the character we know in Anne's story.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked Anne and Goldie. There were times I wanted to slap them but there were times I cried alongside them. Their humor and wit is remarkable and their overall story is told beautifully.