Book Review: How To Be An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway



The one thing bout being an absolute book lover is that no matter what the circumstances, no matter how busy you are you always have time to read a book. I, being one big crazy book reader, have a thousand instances to justify this with  the latest happening  just this past week . So i had my exams and the for last one,  scheduled to be 7th December, we were very blessedly given 2 preparation leaves. So seeing the time at hand(which was for the studying not recreation, i reminded myself continuously in hopes of planting enough guilt to actually start studying) and the excitement because of nearing the end of exams which consisted of reckless daydreaming, i grabbed a novel to start the exams-getting-over celebration a bit early seeing as i couldn’t really go out and party. So i started to sift through my enormous to-read pile of books which, no matter how big a reader you are, never fails to overwhelm you with its enormousness. After a while i settled on How To Be An American Housewife, being in mood for some chick-lit. I completed it in about 7 hours with substantial bouts of revision for the upcoming exam( see i did not totally forget about it ! ).


How to Be an American Housewife is a novel about mothers and daughters, and the pull of tradition. It tells the story of Shoko, a Japanese woman who married an American GI, and her grown daughter, Sue, a divorced mother whose life as an American housewife hasn’t been what she’d expected. When illness prevents Shoko from traveling to Japan, she asks Sue to go in her place. The trip reveals family secrets that change their lives in dramatic and unforeseen ways.


Our heroine, Shoko, is a Japanese girl living with her parents and two younger siblings. She is described to be beautiful, bright, tomboyish and strong. Shoko has a fierce desire to study further and move out of her dainty little village to big places where she can fulfill her desires. Instead, circumstances drive her to marry an American GI and move to America.

Though I pretty much liked Shoko and her undaunted spirit, the one thing that irked me was that despite being shown as a strong-willed , she slogs away her years in America playing a good homemaker to her family. For  a girl who has dreamed big since childhood, who has come up as being the brightest amongst all the kids back in her native land, coming to America should have been a dream come true. The opportunities it presented, the scope of growth for a girl such as Shoko are huge.  And  being the go-getter she is, i had expected her to make use of these  opportunities to her level best. Another thing hat was quite honestly unbelievable and ridiculous was the way Shoko spoke english despite living in America for 50 years with all-english speaking people and no one to converse in her native Japanese with. This compiled with her relatives speaking flawless english in Japan deepens the snag.

Next I’ll move on to Sue, Shoko’s daughter, mother of a teenaged girl and a divorcee. Her character was etched out well and I kept on wanting to know what choices she’ll make and how her character will develop with the story. Her insecurities with respect to her mother are quite relatable.

The story is narrated from the point of view of both Shoko and Sue. However, the development of the other characters is quite dissatisfying and leaves a lot to be desired. For example Shoko’s husband Charlie and her son Mike. There was a lot of scope for them in the story, like Charlie’s feelings when he first brought his Japanese wife to America and the social alienation they had to suffer. The time between Shoko’s move to America and the present day has not been developed at all. If it had, it could have made for  an interesting read to see shoko’s struggle in a new country, learning new language and culture.

The narration is interspersed with excerpts from a fictional guide to become an amreican housewife. That i found new and interesting.


All in all, the novel is a quick read and keeps you interested but you wish you had been given more.