Plum Wine

“A mystery that unfolds as beautifully, delicately, and ceremoniously as a lotus blossom. One of the most memorable novels I have read in many years.”

Lee Smith, author of The Last Girls

Barbara Jefferson, a young American teaching in Tokyo in the 1960s, is set on a life-changing quest when her Japanese surrogate mother, Michi, dies, leaving her a tansu of homemade plum wines wrapped in rice paper. Within the papers Barbara discovers writings in Japanese calligraphy that comprise a startling personal narrative. With the help of her translator, Seiji Okada, Barbara begins to unravel the mysteries of Michi’s life, a story that begins in the early twentieth century and continues through World War II and its aftermath.

As Barbara and Seiji translate the plum wine papers they form an intimate bond, with Michi a ghostly third in what becomes an increasingly uneasy triangle. Barbara is deeply affected by the revelation that Michi and Seiji are hibakusha, and transformed by her growing understanding of the devastating psychological effects wrought by war. Plum Wine examines human relationships, cultural differences, and the irreparable consequences of war in a story that is both original and timeless. Buy Book Plum Wine

Read Chapter One
Hear Angela read a passage of Plum Wine on NPR

Reviews and Quotes

  • Bookliststarred review
    "Davis-Gardner’s exceptionally sensitive and enveloping novel illuminates with quiet intensity, psychological suspense, and narrative grace the obdurate divide between cultures, the collision between love and war, and most piercingly, the horrific legacy of Hiroshima. But Davis-Gardner’s ravishing tale also celebrates the solace of stories, and transcendent bonds people form under the cruelest of circumstances."
  • Publishers Weekly,starred review
    "Enthralling… (Davis-Gardner) quietly wows with this third novel, which features a wonderfully inventive plot and a protagonist as self-possessed as she is sensitive."
  • Raleigh News and Observer
    "Plum Wine illuminates the difficult process of discovering the careful balance between knowledge and inexperience, innocence and clarity. [Angela Davis-Gardner] displays just the right touch in her multilayered third novel, Plum Wine, never once losing the powerfully bare quality of a soft brush on rice paper."
  • Seattle Times
    "A heartrending story of love and loss Davis-Gardner is a masterful storyteller."
  • Alan CheuseNPR’s All Things Considered
    "The story of a powerful and moody love affair between a visiting American schoolteacher and a Japanese potter, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing. In stark and lovely prose, Davis-Gardner creates a believable excursion into the deep heart of a good young woman."
  • Karen Joy Fowlerauthor of The Jane Austen Book Club
    "Equal parts mystery and romance, an enchantment cast with wise and graceful passion."
  • Susan Richards Shreveauthor of Daughters of the New World
    "A complex and lyrical story about love and betrayal, war and responsibility, humane and generous acts in an inhumane world, the contrast between the East and the West, and one woman coming to terms with the American role in destroying innocent lives after World War II and during the Vietnam War."

Plum Wine named a 2007 Kiriyama PrizeNotable Book in Fiction

The Kiriyama Prize celebrates literature that contributes to greater understanding of and among people and nations of the Pacific Rim and Southeast Asia.

Plum Wine is a Finalist for the 2007 Novel of the Year

Southern Independent Booksellers Association

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