||Jul 17, 2002
Critique of All Waters Gathering by Marti Kanna
Barnes & Noble.com
Introducing A.E.H. Veenman
"All Waters Gathering" gives a new prospect at the history of Jacob Quakernaeck, Melchior van Santvoort, and William Adams, the Dutch and English tradesmen to first arrive upon the shores of Japan in 1600.
It's a story of self-discovery by way of passing knowledge on to others, bonding, and human response to kindred spirits. The novel is comprised of stories passed from one generation of women to the next, which strengthens each with a significant lesson relevant to her life.
The journey begins at the foliage of the family tree with two unwitting women, Debra and Mieke, who meet through a community center.
The story progresses as it creatively digs down towards the roots of their ancestry to reveal how their paths cross one another.
"Oyuki, you are American. No matter what these ignorant people say about you."
"And that is the problem. I am American. I am English. I am Japanese. I just want to be Oyuki again."
First, I want to say
that I love the premise of this novel, a "chance" meeting that ends up revealing the characters’ connectedness to one another, and how the story merges themes of hard life realities with history, spirituality, friendship, and love. Also, I’d like to list just a few of the nice touches in your book, of which there are many:
1. the line "she caught a glimpse of her own silhouette trapped between the
black bars [of the banister]", which is symbolic of the trap Mieke has created
2. Mieke’s story of the confused man and the glowing man who is "awake". Mieke breaking a glass at the moment Debra’s car crashes, which is the first sign of their deeper connection.
3. Your description of the hat: "Her brown straw hat fluttered in the wind . . .
the bundle of yellow and white silk flowers failing to hold the hat down, and she quickly forced it to her head."
4. Oyuki’s pronouncement: "‘And that is the problem. I am an American. I am
English. I am Japanese. I just want to be Oyuki again’".
5. The excellent transition between Chapter 25 with, "He was very angry" to
Chapter 26 with, "David pulled Mieke aside to one of the empty aisles. ‘Hey,
what’s the big idea!’"
6. Mieke’s description of the bay in Japan: "Looking up at the sky, then down at the water, she imagined it was like an hourglass, one end pouring into the next."
7. Your description of Siska hiding her valuables: "She stuffed her jewelry and
money inside the bust of her dress, where the bits and pieces fell secure at the belt on her waist. Her letters and paper money stuck to her wet skin, and as her heart raced and hands shook, she forced them further down past her slip"; her wet skin is indicative of her fear.
8. "She felt as if the wind would carry her away; the petals from the cherry
blossom trees gently grazed her face and head as she walked down the reddish
Characters: Debra is a sympathetic character I grew to care about, and you do a nice job of developing Debra’s process of gradual self-discovery. You do a good job of showing Debra and Joanne wrestling over their relationship, coming to an understanding, and reconciling. You also do well at showing Debra’s initial
resistance to Mieke and her gradual warming to her as she hears Mieke’s stories.
Mieke is especially well drawn, maybe because she tells her full story. We see her as a girl growing up, as a young woman, and as an old woman in the present, so she’s rounded, likeable, warm, and human. I like the way you put most of Mieke’s stories in narrative form in their own chapters rather than having her tell them in monologue form to Debra.
I’ve so enjoyed reading your novel!
Marti Kanna, Editor
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