Losing Kei by Suzanne Kamata

There's an old quote that says "A mother who is really a mother is never free". This, as any mother knows couldn't be more true and unfortunately Jill Parker finds this out the hard way in this wonderful book by Suzanne Kamata.

Jill is reeling from a bad relationship, and instead of traveling to Africa, the site of her now ex-boyfriend, she decides to take a fellowship to Japan for a fresh start. She falls in love with the culture, and soon with one of its residents, Yusuke Yamashiro. They have a whirlwind romance, and decide to elope to avoid conflict with his parents. After all she is an American and probably not someone they would approve of him marrying seeing as he is the sole heir to the Yamashiro estate.

Not long into the marriage, Jill finds out that she is pregnant. Even though she is thrilled at the thought of bringing a new life into this world, she is becoming less tolerant of her role in the Yamashiro household. She wants nothing more than to be able to move into a house of their own, but when a tragedy strikes the family it is soon evident that she will never be free.

When young Kei is born she focuses all of her energy on him, after all he is absolutely perfect and the only thing she needs to get her through her lonely days. With a domineering yet needy mother-in-law, and a workaholic husband, he is the only thing in her life that brings her ultimate joy. But soon it is not enough and she decides that her marriage to Yusuke must come to an end. If she was aware of the laws of Japan when it comes to custody of children, she may not have chosen to do this.

After doing some research I have found out some interesting facts:

-Joint custody is illegal in Japan -Japanese courts do not recognize foreign custody orders
-Japanese court orders for custody are not enforceable
-Natural parents do not have priority in future custody changes
-Discrimination against non-Japanese in granting child custody
-Fathers of Children Born Out of Wedlock Have No Custodial Rights
-No system to register a foreign parent's contact information
-Mothers granted child custody in 80% of court decisions
-Child abuse and other psychological factors are ignored in family court decisions
-Adoptions are permitted without approval of the non-custodial natural parent and without approval of a court
-Government officials refuse to help a parent find a child being hidden by the other parent

Unfortunately I was not totally shocked by some of these statements, I just know that I sympathized to my very core with Jill, knowing what kind of fight she was in for to try and get visitation, much less custody of a son born in her husbands native land.

This book is one I would recommend to anyone. It was thoroughly engaging, and gave you a glimpse of how different cultures handle something that is very common here in the US. Well done!

Questions for the author:

Are you a mother?
Yes. I'm the mother of eight-year-old twins - a girl, and a boy. I dedicated the book to my son.
What made you decide to move to Japan (I have always been fascinated with the culture myself)?
I think I originally became interested in Japan through literature. I fell in love with Heian court poetry when I was studying Asian history in college. I loved the idea that courtiers communciated via verse. I also read a couple of novels while I was in college - Equal Distance by Brad Leithauser and Ransom by Jay McInerney - that piqued my interest.I had the opportunity to go to Japan for one year on a program sponsored by the Japanese government which invites young native speakers of English to assist in English classes in public schools. I renewed for a second year, and during that year I met my husband, who is Japanese.
Do you miss anything about the US?
I miss the wide open spaces, and I think that Americans are more tolerant of differences. I also miss libraries and bookstores full of books in English!

What advice would you give new authors?
Persistence is key! I wrote four novels before this one, and I've sent short stories out twenty times or more before getting them accepted for publication. I also think it's important to finish your work. At some point you might get discouraged and think that what you're writing will never pan out, but if you don't get it down, you'll have nothing to work with.Also, join a writing group. And read, read, read.