HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE by Margaret Dilloway was published in August of 2010 and is 288 pages. I bought it because I went on a writing retreat with Margaret last weekend, and I wanted to read books by the women in attendance. I had also heard many great things about the book from several blogs and on Twitter so I was eager to read it.

Set in multiple time periods in Japan and in the United States, HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE is a touching and poignant tale of a mother and daughter, and how the past shaped and defined their future. Shoko, the Japanese mother, narrates the first half of the book, and Sue, her half-American daughter narrates the second half. Both women have unique, compelling voices.

As a girl, Shoko often found herself in trouble for disobedience and nonconformity. She was very close with her brother, Taro, but her choices in love, culminating with her marriage to an American serviceman, destroy their relationship.  Many years pass, and as Shoko deals with aging and her failing health, she reflects on her life and her regrets. Her greatest wish is to return to Japan to make peace with her brother before she dies. Little does she know, her quest to reach out to her family will heal wounds with her own children and free them from burdens they didn’t even realize they carried.

There were so many reasons to love this book. Shoko is a memorable, unique character. She is feisty, abrupt, and honest, and her reflections on the people around her made me laugh and cry. The dialect was extremely well-written–always supporting the characters and settings and flowing naturally within the text. I also enjoyed how the different settings and times blended so well. Dilloway’s movement from past to present, and character to character was seamless.

Above all of this, I loved that the novel had such a message of hope and forgiveness. Family sagas can be difficult because each reader often has her own baggage and stories that shadow the reading. Dilloway depicts how generations can save each other, and her message is one that makes this debut novel truly excellent.


For more on Margaret Dilloway, visit her website at


3 thoughts on “Review: HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE

  1. I completely agree. A fabulous novel from a wonderful person!

  2. Hallie Sawyer says:

    Looks like a good one! Thanks for sharing this review!

  3. Sounds like a good one, Erika. Thanks for sharing!

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