“Food and clothing is so plentiful, it grows on trees.”
“You will be able to go to school.”
Of the three lies the matchmaker told Willow before she left home as a picture bride in 1918, the third hurt the most. Never one to be deterred, Willow does all that she can to make the best of her unexpected circumstance. But it isn’t long before her dreams for this new life are shattered, first by a husband who never wanted to marry her in the first place, and then by the escalation of the Korean independence movements, unified in goal, but divergent in action, which threaten to split the Hawaiian Korean community and divide Willow’s family and friends.
Braving the rough waters of these tumultuous years, Willow forges ahead, creating new dreams through her own blood, sweat, and tears; working tirelessly toward a better life for her family and loved ones.
***Thanks to NetGalley and Forge Books for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.
enjoyable/easy to read:
The Picture Bride is an insightful narrative about a historical period and culture with which I’m unfamiliar. The concept of picture brides is fascinating and terrifying – so many of these women travelled across the world to be misled and often mistreated. Stranded in a strange country where they don’t speak the language, many of them illiterate, it would be impossible to do anything other than accept the situation.
"For me, Korea is the enemy. Because our land is powerless, I lost my husband and my child. But Hawai'i is not Korea, there you'll have no country to protect. Once you're there, just forget us here, be happy with your husband and children, and enjoy life. That's my only wish."
Her mother's bitter voice was engraved on Willow's heart as she fell asleep.
While Willow’s perspective is not devoid of emotion or introspection, I struggled to feel a connection to her and the narrative. I was a passive observer, and it’s certainly not because the story wasn’t interesting or engaging – I was wholly intrigued with what would happen to her and these other women. The writing style flows from one action to the next, so I think that left me disengaged, just going with the flow.
I would highly recommend The Picture Bride to fans of historical fiction who would like to learn more about an interesting facet of Hawaiian and Korean histories.