Review: Shadow Child by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

36204876*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Shadow Child

Author: Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Publication Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 9781538711453

Synopsis from Goodreads:
A haunting and suspenseful literary tale set in 1970s New York City and World War II-era Japan, about three strong women, the dangerous ties of family and identity, and the long shadow our histories can cast. Twin sisters Hana and Kei grew up in a tiny Hawaiian town in the 1950s and 1960s, so close they shared the same nickname. Raised in dreamlike isolation by their loving but unstable mother, they were fatherless, mixed-race, and utterly inseparable, devoted to one another. But when their cherished threesome with Mama is broken, and then further shattered by a violent, nearly fatal betrayal that neither young woman can forgive, it seems their bond may be severed forever–until, six years later, Kei arrives on Hana’s lonely Manhattan doorstep with a secret that will change everything.


I really enjoyed reading Rizzuto’s Shadow Child. It was a great blend of mystery, literary, and historical fiction, bringing together a story of family, loss, tragedy, heart-break. The story of Lillie is a devastating recollection of the Japanese work camps in America and the incredible struggle and loss brought on in World War II. In contrast is the story of twin sisters, Hana and Kei, who grow up so close to one another that they often go by the same nickname, or are easily confused as they slip into one another’s identity.  This story is a discovery of truth, of secrets long kept or suppressed that are life changing.

There is an undercurrent of mental illness running throughout the story. Lillie struggles with crippling depression in the wake of the trauma of Hiroshima–something she struggles with until the end of her life. Mental illness trickles down to her daughter Hana, whom we come to know very well, as she fails to heal in the aftermath of a traumatic event that leaves her with paralyzing anxiety and an inescapable and altered sense of reality. Through their stories, Rizzuto explores memory and how perception and memory can change with time, or with how one experienced an event. Hana’s thoughts are swirling and often confused. Lillie’s memories seem more straightforward, but she tells them as fictional stories, as if the memories do not belong to her.

This is a mystery story  that draws a lot on altered perception and self-discovery through time and healing. It doesn’t neatly fit into one genre or another, but blends time, place, and genre artfully to create something engaging and interesting. It questions how we form our identities and how we determine who we are as people and as individuals.

Happy reading!


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