Title: The Girl in the Photo
Author: Wally Wood
Genre: fiction/historical fiction
The Girl in the Photo, written by Wally Wood, is part fiction, part historical
fiction. The novel is told from the point of view of three characters: Abbie,
David, and Dr. Emmerling. The story opens with Abbie getting an urgent
phone call informing her Dr. Emmerling, Abbie's father, had died. After
recovering from the initial shock, she calls her younger brother to inform him of this tragic news.
As David and Abbie meet together at Dr. Emmerling's old estate to take care of wills, obituaries and such. There is quite palpable tension between the two siblings. Abbie always feels as if she is the person bearing all the burden and responsibilities. David feels as if Abbie has not changed from her "older bossy sister" attitude towards him even after 50+ years. Quite a bit of background information about these two characters were provided at the beginning of this book. In short, progress and action was slow the first 25% of the book. Fortunately, the writing was mostly "showing not telling", which made reading it tenfold more enjoyable had Wally taken on a "telling not showing" writing approach.
The action really starts to pick up when David finds a memoir left on his father's computer. Titled "Mt. Koya", Dr. Emmerling recalls a life he has never talked about with his two children. A surgeon for the army during World War I, Dr. Emmerling had been stationed in Japan. I loved reading about his life in Japan...it was definitely the most interesting part of the novel. As a reader, I got to be exposed to the Japanese culture of the period, which I found fascinating.
Personally, I felt that there were some unneeded chapters in the middle of the book. For example, I would much rather read about "Mt. Koya" than Abbie trying to write an obituary for her father. Also, the switching from past to present tense somewhat interrupts the flow of my reading. I want to be immersed into Dr. Emmerling's autobiography--I want to become emotionally attached to young Dr. Emmerling and Masami (his lover). In other words, I would've loved it if the "Mt. Koya" section of the novel was longer.
Wally Wood sure threw in a curve ball for me when I read the ending of "Mt. Koya." I couldn't believe what had just happened (**trying not to spoil anything**) so I was relieved when I found out that Dr. Emmerling hadn't told the whole truth in the memoir. To quickly sum things up, David and Abbie find out Masami is alive in Japan and that they have a half sister. The siblings decide to travel to Japan to meet their recently discovered family members.
Most emotional part of the book: When Abbie and David inform Masami that Dr. Emmerling is dead. I think my eyes might have teared up when Masami replies one of her greatest wish was to see him one last time before she passed on (she's probably in her 80's or 90's.) The love Masami felt for Dr. Emmerling was so intense and legit that I truly wanted Masami to have a happy life.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was a tad slow moving in the beginning, but it helped set up the scene and characters. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read some light romance, a story that deals with life and death and if you're interested in Japan during World War I.
*Mt. Koya memoir was very well written
*surprise twist near the end
*how it flipped from past to present then to past then to present again
***a copy was given in exchange for an honest review***