Michael G. Malaghan
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Editor’s note: We continue Michael G. Malaghan’s serialized historical novel, “Picture Bride — A Family Saga,” based on the Japanese immigrant experience. Malaghan’s trilogy takes readers from turn-of-the-20th-century-Japan to Hawai‘i in the picture bride era; the Islands during World War II, highlighted by the exploits of the Nisei soldiers; and beyond.
The novel, which is now available as a printed softcover book, opens with 12-year-old Haru-chan, fleeing her home in Amakusa, Kyüshü, for Hiroshima, where she becomes the picture bride of a Buddhist priest in Hawai‘i.
Author Michael Malaghan is a retired businessman who divides his time between Hawai‘i, Florida and Japan.
As Kenji drove off, Haru padded over to her Singer. “A seamstress day,” she addressed the new machine, all the while thinking, You are the only good outcome of my meeting with Okumura. She sat down beside the pile of her sons’ trousers — some needed to be shortened, others lengthened.
Thirty minutes into her sewing project, the sharp, short ring of the front doorbell interrupted her stitching of Tommy’s cuffs. Seconds later, she heard a thunk, followed by the soft whishing of an envelope. She waited for the clunk of the wooden flap slapping the mail chute before investigating the day’s post, but, already, her mood had lightened. The thunk meant she had received a catalog. Which one? Last week, she had received the Montgomery Ward winter catalog. Upon entering the foyer, she was surprised to see an unfamiliar tome and stopped to read the spine: Spiegel.
A jolt of excitement ripped through her as she spotted an envelope bearing Admiral Togo’s portrait on Japanese stamps. Must be from Midori, she surmised. She stooped down to pick up the catalogue and letter and sauntered over to the tatami mat room, her favorite room in the house. As much as Haru embraced Western furniture with all its conveniences, nothing soothed her more than stepping into what her family had started calling “Mama’s retreat.” The centerpiece of the sparsely furnished room was the squat, lacquered, rosewood tea table. Four zaisu, or floor chairs, surrounded the table. She moved one of the padded zaisu to her private tatami tsukue, a knee-high sandalwood desk. Haru squatted down on the back of her legs in front of the floor desk, which still gave off hints of its famous aroma. A smile softened her face, as it always did, when she looked up at the watercolor of a cherry tree branch in full bloom against a pink sky honoring the facing wall.
She flipped the envelope around. The return address was her Hiroshima home. She lifted her ivory letter opener . . . then stopped. She stared at the unfamiliar handwriting. Who besides Midori or Kiyoshi ever wrote to her from the Fudoin Temple? Her heart bumped against her rib cage. Something had happened to her parents.
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